Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September 30 – “An E.T. moment”

We snuck in another yard work day yesterday.  It has been raining off and on around here, so we grabbed the first window of opportunity to try and stay ahead of the fast-growing grass.  Problem was, our lawn mower kept dying.  It would start OK, but I never knew how long it would keep running.  It finally got to where it would use up the gas I put in with that little priming button and then give up the ghost.  And when the last pull of  that starter rope slipped out of my hands and whipped around and smacked me in the stomach (leaving an imprint of the handle, I might add), I was done.  Well, done with that particular mower anyway. 

So that meant texting Nathan and asking if we could go get his neutron-powered jet pack mower to finish the job.  Not only does it start with an easy pull of the starter rope, but it also has wheel power.  All you have to do it pull up a lever and the wheels roll on their own.  It’s a miracle.  I finished the mowing in record time.  Even finished off the half of 40 Steps (vacant lot next door) that I have been trying, albeit quite unsuccessfully, to rid of stickerburs.  That meant I had the time - and energy – to trim back some of the trees I have been nursing both in our yard and in the lot.  Great fun.  Not so fun hauling the branches to the street though.

Once we got cleaned up we made a WalMart and Home Depot run.  We wanted to pick up some more of the supplies for the retreat center renovations.  We got word that the counter tops were on their way from Oklahoma already, so another workday looms in the near future.  We picked up some blinds for the bunk rooms and some more of the frosted window covering for the inside doors and a wall switch plate to replace one that was broken. 

Last night was babysitting at Kel and Christina’s house up in Texas.  The game of the evening turned out to be none other than hide and seek.  Jachin and Micah are masters at it, especially in their new home.  Josiah just wasn’t patient enough.  The older two hid inside cabinets and behind beds.  Jachin even managed to squeeze himself into a tint wardrobe in Noa’s bedroom.  And stayed there for a long time.  Pretty impressive stuff.  I would have to give the award for the best hiding place to Micah, though.  Chris was searching for him in his room.  As she carefully reached for the doorknob to the closet, she noticed just the hint of movement off to her left.  There, hidden among a pile of stuffed animals was an extra face - the face of Micah.  A true E.T., The Extraterrestrial moment.  It took about a second and a half too long for her to make the connection.  And in that second and a half she received the scare of her life.  Well, at least the scare of the evening.  Well played, Micah.  Well played.

Hebrews 2:1 says, “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”

Father, keep on developing that creativity and patience I saw last night in those boys.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September 29 – “Great New Plans”

Well, Fall is finally here, and with it came the inevitable “Letter.”  Perhaps you know the one.  Totally unexpected.  Completely devoid of a coherent reason.  Shrouded in just enough mystery to send you just over the edge of frustration.  Who was it from?  In our case it was from our health insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. 

And what could they possibly have to say to us at the end of September?  They send bills every month.  They even pay for part of what they are supposed to pay for.  Sometimes.  We pay our premiums on time.  We follow proper procedure almost every time.  But come the end of September, we have come to expect “The Letter.”  The letter that announces, with regret, that “your current policy will be discontinued on December 31.”  Again.  Notice that we did nothing wrong.  My suspicion is that this particular policy must have been the very one that was actually working for the consumers who chose it last year.  That would mean the company is losing money on it this year as they pay out claims.  So rather than cancel individual users, which as I understand it, they can’t really do any more, they simply discontinue the plan. 

Oh, the letter is always nice enough to include platitudes like “Nothing is more important than your health.”  And “our goal is to help you and your family live healthy and stay healthy in 2016.”  Great sentiment.  They also are great encouragers, promising to send more information sometime before November 1st, so we can “have plenty of time to choose” from all of their great new plans.  “Great New Plans.”  Those would be the ones that don’t cover as much but cost considerably more.  Can’t wait. 

Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

Father, thank you for being consistent, never-changing.  It’s good to have someone we can count on.  Amen.

Monday, September 28, 2015

September 28 – “The Fred … a Follow-up”

Fred update … so far this “not-a-puppy-because-she-has-adult-teeth” little dog of ours has managed to chew a hole in and scatter the contents thereof of her bed all over the laundry room.  She has discovered and dragged into the den one of Chris’ houseshoes and at least three stuffed animals, all of which have been at least three times her size.  We actually saw her bring one in, proudly prancing with her head held high.  Of course that was the only way she could get it far enough off the floor to make it move.  Fortunately she didn’t have time to completely decimate the stuffed animals like she did her bed.  We have also discovered duplos all over the house in various stages of chewed-up-ness.  Just caught her trying to expand her horizons into the realm of reading.  She pulled two large books off the shelf (Again, bigger than she is.  Must be a desperate attempt to prove her prowess in spite of her size.  Alas, the curse of the short one).  Reading is ordinarily a beneficial pursuit, but not for dogs with a penchant for chewing.  Oh, and last night she did her best to chew a hole in the hard plastic of the dog gate.  That one was a bit beyond even her expertise, however. 

She doesn’t particularly like chicken-enhanced dog food, but the last few times she has eaten it without complaint.  No … she ate it like she was starving.  She also eats the dry dog food the other two eat, but to her it is more of a forbidden fruit, special treat that she can sneak when the other two aren’t looking.  We got her one of those hard plastic balls, which she promptly lost under the couch.  We also got one of those ropes, this one with a ball of one end.  The ball lasted about 20 minutes.  It was chewed into shreds.  The rope has been a Godsend, though.  She still chews on that thing. 

It looks like Frightened, Flea-bitten, Fugitive F-F-F-Fred has become Frantic, Frenetic, Frisky Freddy.  I think she’s gonna be … Fine.

Philemon 7 says, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”

Father, give us some extra energy.  I thought we were through with this raising a child thing.  Amen.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

September 27 – “Be a sport”

We had quite the sports day yesterday.  For one thing, Cailyn was with us for the day (always an athletic feat).  She joined us for a multi-faceted sports trip into Texas that started around 8:30 in the morning.  Micah was first on the docket.  He was playing in a basketball game at the YMCA near their house.  I think their opponent was the Lakers.  There was nothing little about those little boys.  I think Micah’s team managed to score two points on free throws.  Micah impressed me with his defense, though.  In fact in the second half his coach assigned the opponent’s best player to him to guard.  The kid was their high post and had been scoring at will.  With Micah on him, though, he was completely shut down.  They finally moved the kid to low post and then it became strictly a matter of height differential.  Nevertheless, I was proud of that Vaughan kid’s spunk. 

Next we went outside to Josiah’s soccer game.  He played the first period at goalie, but his team so dominated the game that he never even came close to touching the ball.  In the other periods he was moved to the field (not sure what they call the positions when there are only five of them out there).  Most of the time Josiah played a cautious game, staying near but not so much in the middle of the pack.  He did mix it up a time or two, though, and one of those times he managed to score a goal.  Once again, I was proud of one of those Vaughan boys.

Jachin was next with a flag football game.  Actually we had a few hours in between, so Chris and I made our way over to Sam’s and Hobby Lobby to pick up some things for the church.  Trip into Texas means taking advantage of everything on your list.  Cailyn went home with her cousins to get in some play time.  Shopping accomplished, it was on to the football game.  Jachin’s team has had one or two practices I think, but they discovered after the last one that the guy who seemed to be their coach was actually a YMCA staffer who was just filling in.  They had no coach, actually.  Kel agreed to help as much as he could, so they sent him an email with the rules.  And every time the boys lined up to run a play, the ref blew the whistle for an infraction of one kind or another.  Kel was, to say the least, bumfuzzled.  None of the calls matched the email he had received.  He stayed with it for the entire first half, but let another Dad take over for the rest of the game.  The opponent for the game was a group of boys who had been playing together for several years, and it showed.  They were really good.  Jachin made several really good passes as quarterback, and one of them went for a really long gain.  Several, however, were intercepted, not because they pass was bad, but because their defender was just that good.  We’re hoping he doesn’t get too discouraged.  They will get better as the season progresses.  I was proud of that Vaughan boy as well. 

And speaking of grandparent pride, the girls were great as well.  Cailyn was a big help with Noa when we were crowded into the stands at the basketball game, and both of them played well together as we all tried to stuff ourselves under the umbrella’s shade at the hot football game.  So, yep.  Proud of my girls as well.  Oh, and I’m certain Zak and Caleb and Luke did something equally as memorable that I haven’t heard about yet, so let’s include them in the pride parade.  Gotta love those Vaughan kiddos.

Philemon 4-5 says, “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.”

Father, thank you for those great kids you blessed us with.  Oh, and thanks for the part their parents played in getting them here.  Amen.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

September 26 – “Evidence”

Before I say anything about my day, I thought I would insert a little evidence.  Oh, not of a crime or anything like that.  Quite the opposite, actually.  Just wanted to have it in writing that I personally heard Chris Passons tell his wife Heather about their breakfast plans for the weekend with some friends who are coming to town.  Now I don’t think that will be a problem in this particular instance, since there were no real distractions going on, and neither of them were playing video games, but now the facts are in. 

Obviously our day was rather calm yesterday.  Slow news day on the Vaughan front.  About time.  I finished up work on the sermon for Sunday, but we had to make a WalMart run.  I needed a few … um, “props” … for the teaching.  Gotta keep those folks on their toes, you know.  Well, at least keep them awake for part of the teaching.  We also had to pick up some more of the items for the retreat center project.  It was good to just walk around holding hands with my girlfriend and watching people be … people.  Always a great stress reducer.  We also had to go by the post office and stand in line.  Another given, unfortunately.  We had to return a Precious Moments Collector’s Club figurine.  It was broken when we received it.  Also sent a book back to Josh that he left here when they last visited.  Oh, and Chris sent a certified letter to her lawyer.  Best we can tell it contained the final pieces to the settlement of her Mom’s estate.  It will be a really happy day when that chapter of our lives is complete.  We celebrated last night with a bowl of homemade lima beans and an Astros game on TV.  Of course the Astros lost to the Rangers, but it was a good night anyway. 

Titus 3:9 says, “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.”

Father, thank you for slow news days and completed chapters and friends who communicate.  Amen.

Friday, September 25, 2015

September 25 – “Search for sanity”

My search for sanity yesterday extended into all three of the areas I usually recommend in situations where life has thrown you a curve ball in the dirt and you were all set for a fast ball right down the middle.  Hey it’s still baseball season.  The baseball analogies will remain.  My fast ball down the middle was a herniated disc and the inevitable surgery that would accompany it.  That’s what I was prepared for.  That’s where my research had centered.  The curve came when that disc diagnosis suddenly became a synovial cyst with surgery not necessarily required.  I know.  Sounds a little better at first glance.  Can something sound better at a glance?  But what in the world is a synovial cyst?  Chris immediately started searching the internet for answers to that question.  I started on answer one to dealing with life’s difficult issues: Do something physical.  For me, about as physical as I can get right now is … well, going fishing. 

So I did.  And I got the physical workout as well.  The wind picked up and the waves got really choppy.  I was fishing at the new area where they are rebuilding the beach.  I was curious to see what the cuts and sand bars were like.  Didn’t take long to find out.  After the long hike to the water, I realized quickly that I was essentially fishing from what had been the second sand bar.  Once I got past the pests (ladyfish, needle nose eels and hardhead catfish) the fish I did catch tended to be bigger than the ones that used to hang out in the first cut back when there was a first cut.  That was a good thing.  I caught a few speckled trout and more than a few whiting.  Gotta load up again for the family fish fries to come. 

The second recommendation I make for overcoming the funk associated with life’s seemingly insurmountable issues is to get outside of yourself and do something for others.  So yesterday afternoon, in preparation for our homeschool coop and for the group that will be arriving this evening to stay in the retreat center, Chris and I went up to the church and loaded up the new cabinets with all the stuff we removed from the old ones.  They should be good to go now until the countertops arrive in a week or so. 

Oh, and what did Chris discover in her internet search?  Here are the highlights: A synovial cyst can be removed surgically, but it will probably come back.  If you do nothing, it will sometimes go away – after a year or two.  But to top it all off, we received our copy of the myelogram report.  And the doctor of radiology who read the films reported that the area in question that was giving me so much trouble was more than likely not a synovial cyst, but instead a bulge in the disc.  Hence our current state of confusion.  Now after following all three of my usual admonitions (1. Do something physical – check.  2. Do something for someone else – check.  3. Wait until the next morning before making any further decisions because joy comes in the morning -  everything tends to look better in the morning – check), I can’t say that our course of action is any clearer.  My back does still hurt.  I still don’t understand which diagnosis is correct.  I still have no idea what to do next.  But I know I can keep working out to strengthen my core muscles.  I know I have plenty of ways I can be involved in other people’s lives.  After all, I am a pastor … and a chaplain … and a neighbor.  And I know that when I go to sleep tonight, tomorrow will be a whole new challenge, a whole new opportunity, a whole new adventure.  Check, check, and check. 

Titus 3:8 says, “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”

Father, thank you for bringing peace amidst confusion.  It doesn’t always change the circumstance, but it sure is good to know you’re with me in it.  Amen.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

September 24 – “I’m confused.”

OK.  Now I’m really confused.   Here’s the thing.  We heard from the neurosurgeon.  He left a voice mail that said I had a herniated disc that was a surgical event.  We could call to discuss it further.  So we called.  This time he said it was not a herniated disc, but a synovial cyst.  And that is not necessarily a surgical even, though it can be.  I asked if we could have a copy of the myelogram report for our records.  He said, “no problem.”  The very next day we received the myelogram report in the mail.  I read it as carefully as I could, then had Chris read it and tell me what it said.  The radiologist indicated in the report that the area in question was most likely NOT a cyst, but more likely a bulging disc.  OK, now wait a minute.  Disc.  Cyst.  Disc.  Surgery. Not necessarily surgery.  Does this mean surgery is back on the table as “likely” again? 

I needed a day to seek to regain my manic state in lieu of waiting until joy comes in the morning, so … I went fishing.  Maybe it will make more sense tomorrow.

Titus 3:4-5 says, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

Father, you well know that I stay pretty confused most days.  This one has been worse than usual.  I trust you.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September 23 – “Where are we?”

Chris and I drove to a place called Tres Palacios yesterday to scatter the ashes of Chris’s Dad near his favorite fishing hole.  I sure can’t fault him for wanting that.  I had never been there, and Chris hasn’t been since her childhood fishing trips with her Dad.  Fortunately both of her brothers were there to lead the way in their own truck.  We drove for what seemed like hours to get there.  Paved roads gave way to gravel and still we kept going.  We even drove over a small wooden bridge with alligators in the water below, just leering up at us, daring us to come on in for a quick swim.  Where were we?

There were hawks everywhere soaring through the skies searching for a delectable morsel for their supper.  We passed mile after mile of fence with barbed wire at the top.  We saw mad-made lakes more often than seemed possible.  And then, off in the not-so-distant distance, we saw … the nuclear power plant.  I commented to Chris, “If we see just one grotesquely deformed cow, I think we should turn around and go home.” 

We finally made it to some water, though, and the view was pretty spectacular.  Access to the water was easy and there weren’t that many people there.  I have to say, it would be a perfect fishing spot.  Nice call, Harold.  The four of us gathered at the water’s edge.  I quietly read a prayer and blessing taken from the ceremony for a burial at sea.  Then Chris’ younger brother waded into the water and scattered the ashes.  Not a lot of fanfare or bells and whistles.  Just a quick, quiet, solemn obedience to a final request.  Rest in Peace, Harold Hamilton.

After some goodbye hugs we separated to head to Victoria and Galveston.  On our way back we saw what I was certain were numerous nuclear-affected cows.  They must have been.  They had these large bumps on their backs … 

At the front entrance to the plant there was a bit of a traffic jam.  As we approached we could see why.  One car was in a ditch.  A brand new reed pickup truck was in the middle of the street … wrapped in the traffic light that should have been hanging above.  Hmm.  Was it a simple traffic accident?  Or was it the effects of the nuclear radiation?  Perhaps it was aliens interested in the nuclear technology?  We weren’t held up that long at the wreck sight, and everyone appeared to be fine.  DPS was already there and directing traffic. 

A bit further down the road brought us to beautiful downtown Wadsworth, Texas.  It must certainly be a booming industrial complex.  We even saw a run-down, ragged, old building with a For Lease sign on it.  It added, “Will renovate to suite.”  So … would that be “we’ll fix it up into a suite” or “we’ll fix it as you like it (to suit you)”?  Didn’t have much time to ponder the issue.  Wadsworth only lasted about three blinks.  We finally made our way to our chosen supper destination, personally recommended by Ed and Pat Jackson (a pair of long-time Seasiders).  It’s called the Red Snapper Inn in Surfside Texas.  We ordered a bowl of gumbo and the seafood platter.  Folks, that was the best crab cake I have ever eaten, bar none.  I’ll definitely have to add that place to my recommendation list for Seaside visitors.  And I think we’ll be back.

Titus 2:7-8 says, “In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

Father, give Chris and her brothers and sister a special touch of comfort today.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September 22 – “The Big Three”

We had the honors of taking Cailyn to soccer practice last night.  Any sports practice for a bunch of six-year-olds is worth the effort to attend, and this one was certainly no exception.  It took us a while to even find her team once we arrived.  The soccer complex here in Galveston is a pretty big one, and there were numerous other teams practicing and playing, so we just had to search.  We passed by the men’s teams.  Not them.  We passed by three other kids’ teams.  “Nope.  I play against them.”  We finally found them, though, and she jogged out to join the fun. 

Even though the coach seemed quite a bit unorganized, the kids seemed to be making the most of it and having some fun.  Before they started the coach asked them all what was their most favorite part of the game they just played the other day.  I heard “When I was scoring a goal” and “When we won 7 to 7.”  And then he looked at Cailyn for her answer.  She didn’t hesitate, “Break time.”  OK.  Always an important moment in any intense sporting competition.  He then asked, “What is the three most important things to remember in soccer?”  Immediately answers were flying, and he carefully acknowledged each one.  “Teamwork.”  “Passing the ball.”  “Triangles.”  Yes.  All those things are crucial to the game of soccer.  The coach thought he was ready to move on to the next question.  But no.  For Cailyn had one more answer.  One that the  coach probably mentioned in passing at an early practice.  She shook her head side to side, raised her hand politely but firmly, and stood her ground.  Finally the coach saw her and noticeably intrigued, he asked what else could be so important that it could possibly rival the “Big Three” of Teamwork, Passing, and Triangles, he called on her.  Her answer?  “Knowing everybody’s name.”  Of course.  So they went around the circle and everyone had to say each person’s name.    

The practice itself was interesting.  The coach was trying to run some basic soccer drills, and he had two dads assisting him.  They conferred before every drill as to its merits, I suppose.  They took just a little too long, though.  Every time they stopped to talk to each other, the six-year-olds found something else to do.  And once an individual kid ran the drill one time, in most cases he was done with that one.  Cailyn personified the responses of the entire group when she sat down after her turn and one of the dads asked her if she wanted to go again.  (Wait.  This is a sports practice, isn’t it?  You don’t ask.  You tell).  She answered … perhaps a bit too quickly … “Nope.”  And that was that.  Wait for the next drill.  They all did pretty well in the scrimmage time, though.  That was fun, and the coach even played for one of the teams.  Always a plus for the kids, in my experience.  Of course “my experience” has been with high school basketball players.  They always enjoyed smoking the coach.  And it wasn’t ever all that difficult against me.  It was all about building their self-esteem, of course. 

Titus 2:7 says, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.”

Father, keep those little guys healthy and having fun as they continue their year on the soccer field.  Amen.

Monday, September 21, 2015

September 21 – “A Visit from … What IS that?”

Well, our new little addition, the puppy named Fred, caused us to wake with a start this morning.  Early this morning.  Like 4:30 early this morning.  She doesn’t bark, so it was an incessant whining the finally pierced through my hard of hearing defenses and woke me up.  I was quite surprised that Chris didn’t wake up long before me.  Or perhaps she did and was just waiting for the most opportune moment to declare her awareness.  That would be when she knew I was awake and could take point in the investigative process.  She likes to let me feel like I am still the strong, brave protector of the palace from all sorts of interlopers, whether humanoid or alien, feline or canine, rodentia or insective.  So I dutifully (and carefully) rose from my perch.  And the whining stopped.  Now understand, there is no way Fred can see me from where I was.  But somehow, nevertheless, she was toying with me from the get-go.  As I started to sit back down, the whine resumed in full force.  So I … so I … so I …

So I trudged from my bed to see what was the matter.

The room was all dark, it was still night, you see,
But the whine it continued, the sound guided me.

To the light switched I stumbled with hands held out wide.
Was the noise growing louder?  Should I warn Chris to hide?

Of a sudden the light on the ceiling did glow,
And banished all shadows from sounds down below.

As I rounded the corner and focused tired eyes,
All looked as should be … then came the surprise.

For out from the calm through the whine there arose
A stench that afflicted my unwary nose.

And there in her kennel with her tail all a-flutter
Was Fred of the fur hued of peanut butter.

All seemed to be fine far as first glance could see,
But things were not right in the olfactory.

I neared and I gagged as I opened her door,
For she had indeed found new use for her floor.

“To the yard” I did order, and outside she went.
And by now came Chris and assistance she lent.

The stench didn’t bother her nurse-train-ed nose.
In fact she took over the task that was posed.

“Throw the bed in the wash, paper towels hand to me.”
I followed directions and stayed back with glee.

She wiped and she scrubbed from the cage to the sink,
Determined to get rid of all of the stink.

My eyes, how they twinkled, my stomach aflutter.
I smiled as my heart grew then three sizes for her.

A fresh towel in place and young Fred back inside,
We locked up the kennel and both of us sighed.

Though our days tending young’uns is long ago past,
There’s always a Fred needing love that will last.

Genesis 1:21 says, “So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

Father, thank you for that little critter.  I suppose she will go a long way toward keeping us young.  Amen.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

September 20 – “We’ll be back”

Work Day #2 at Seaside began in earnest around 7:30 yesterday morning.  That’s about when I received a call as we were loading up our car.  Our resident electrician Eric and our volunteer plumber/jack-of-all-trades Chris were at the church waiting.  And neither had a key to get in.  I assured them I was on my way, but I also gave them the names of a few folks who lived closer and who also had keys in case they didn’t want to wait.  They didn’t.  Want to wait, I mean.  They texted Lauren and she came over and saved the day. 

Eric the Electrician (E2) brought along a helper with him.  It was fascinating to piggy-back on some of the training sessions going on between the two of them.  Wish I could have heard more.  Eric seems to be a patient and thorough educator.  But I had my assignment to fulfill.  Trip to Home Depot, of course.  No one wanted to allow me to do any heavy lifting or strange twisting, so the best thing for the back gimp?  Send him to the hardware store.  But this trip was yet another Home Depot nightmare.  Much of the stuff on my list was electrical, so I had no idea what I was looking for.  (I did run into a couple of Jamaica Beach fire fighters, and they were helping me look as well, but none of us were having any luck).  After having someone call for an electrical associate three different times, I heard the fourth call: “Electrical associate to the wire cutting station.”  Within seconds two electrical associates rounded the corner.  It’s all in how you present the problem, I suppose.  Wire cutting ordinarily would mean a big contractor order.  It worked, though.  They directed me to the appropriate requests on the list.  Except for the tie wire.  Just plain bailing wire to hold stuff together.  Seems they don’t carry tie wire.  By his attitude he communicated that no one in his right mind uses tie wire anymore anyway, so I was a real idiot for even asking for it.  I agree with the idiot part as far as electrical supplies is concerned, but I was the one prepared to pay for it, so he could have been somewhat nicer, I thought.  A quick phone call to Eric and the problem was solved, though.  Bob ran over to the Jamaica Beach Hardware Store and picked some up.  And after at least two hours that seemed like four or five, I finally made my way back to the church.  New rule: anything that can be purchased at the local hardware store … get it.  I’m the new poster boy for local shopping.

We got a lot done on the project.  Over twenty people were there to help out, along with Eric and his helper and handyman Chris.  Special kudos to cabinet specialist Bob, up-and-coming newcomer Alexander, Ed (yet another jack-of-all-trades), and the previously mentioned Chris did a fabulous job installing the cabinets and plumbing.  Even put a temporary plywood countertop in so we could use the sink.  Can’t wait to see it when the real countertops come in.  Mama Chris organized a crew of painters that attacked the halls and bunkrooms and began the trim around the doors.  Looks great.  We shared a meal together at lunch time (Mario’s Pizza Pirate’s Beach – good stuff).  And I was banished to work at organizing the storeroom.  After everyone else left, though, Chris and I did a little more serious cleaning so it would look better for the group coming this weekend 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

September 19 – “A new crew”

We had quite the surprise yesterday.  Well, at least I was surprised.  Chris knew it was coming.  Kel and his family came over.  OK, not that unusual, especially for a Friday.  They often make the trek all the way down here from Texas (LaMarque) on Fridays to have a snack or two and usually some pizza.  But this time was considerably different.  They brought tools - outdoor tools – the kind useful for doing yard work.  Yep.  The  whole family worked out in our yard (which needed it badly).  Kel and 11-year-old Jachin did a tag team on the mowing (Well, they did after we went over and borrowed Nathan’s lawn mower.  Ours kept dying again).  8-year-old Micah was a master at the weedeater, edging the front so that it looked great.  4-year-old Josiah then stepped in with his assignment – the grass blower.  He also helped his Mom do some flower bed weeding.  And finally came 2-year-old Noah with a full-sized broom, sweeping up the grass remnants. 

Jachin was having a really difficult time maneuvering the jet-pack that was Nathan’s lawn mower.  He made it through about half of the front lawn before I realized two things.  One was an oversight on my part.  I had forgotten to raise the level of the wheels, so it was really having to struggle through our high grass.  The second one I guess I should have acted upon sooner, but he was building up some key muscles for the next time he attacked a lawn.  See, Nathan’s jet pack lawn mower included an attachment that sent power to the wheels.  He didn’t have to push the thing at all.  Boy did that ever make a difference for him.  He may actually do the whole mowing thing again now.  Micah didn’t seem to have any trouble at all, save for the typical extension cord tangle woes.  Josiah lasted a good five or ten seconds before that massive leaf blower became just too heavy for him, so Mom took over for him.  But he did a great job of scooping up the gathered grass and hauling it over to Forty Steps (aka the vacant lot next door).  Noa was great with a broom.  Sweeping with it, I mean.  As far as I could tell she never tried to ride it, so I think we may be safe on the Hogwarts front.  Kel handled the back yard by himself.  It was a great surprise and an even greater blessing for this old sore backed dude.  Gotta be proud of the youngsters for helping out.  Made the pizza lunch taste just a little bit sweeter.

2 Tim 4:2 says, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.”

Father, thank you for sending us a yard crew yesterday.  Bless them for the efforts.  Amen.

Friday, September 18, 2015

September 18 – “Inside my head”

Brand new hearing aids have arrived and have been installed in my ears.  Jury’s still out on what I think of them, but early reports are looking pretty good.  I went to watch part of Cailyn’s soccer game yesterday just before home group.  When I arrived I picked up my cell phone as usual and asked Siri to call Nathan so I could locate where they were.  She gave her customary reply, “Calling Nathan Vaughan,” but something was very different.  She was talking inside my head.  Instantly intrigued, I set my phone down and waited.  The phone rang - inside my head.  And then Nathan started talking – inside my head.  So I talked back, forgetting to pick up my phone.  And he heard me just fine – all inside my head.  Very strange phenomenon.  I can see how this could result in some very fun experiences in crowded spaces.  I can talk with the voices in my head and everyone will think I’m looney.  New bucket list item.  I also now have an extra little cell phone to carry around with me.  I can use it to remotely adjust the settings.  It also works as an external microphone that picks up sound and sends it to my ears wherever I happen to be.  So if I go to the kitchen to make a sandwich during the Astros game I will never miss a beat.  Wonder if it can be programmed to just pick up the radio broadcast and drop it inside my head?  Oh, and we also paired it with Chris’ phone.  That means I can hijack her phone calls.  But only if her Bluetooth is turned on.  Needless to say, she turned it off as soon as we got home.  We are anxious to try some FaceTime calls.  We figured out that I can’t tap into the audio feed and still have Chris be able to hear as well, so I’ll just have to trust that the external mikes can pick it up.  Electronic toys.  Better than a video game. 

We did miss a call from the neurosurgeon while we were at the audiologist’s office.  The myelogram results are in.  Drum roll here.  The “good news” is that the stenosis can be categorized more as moderate than severe.  Of course it’s still there and is still progressing.  But the bad news is, there is a herniated disc just below the stenosis that is placing severe pressure on nerves.  That’s no doubt the culprit of this round of pain.  It is a “surgical issue,” and we are to call him with our questions or to proceed further.  We haven’t had time to marinate that inside or outside our heads yet, so no decisions have been made.  I have been told that I must need a hobby since the last few posts have been so long, so I’ll quit here.  More to come. 

2 Peter 1:10-11 says, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Father, thank you for these miracles stuffed into my ears.  Every moment is a new experience with them … kind of like life with you.  Amen.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

September 17 – “Pedestrian vs. Vehicle”

Well, I didn’t do such a good job of remaining bedridden for 24 hours.  Yesterday morning we decided to at least show up at our dance class and watch.  I was ready to give it a try and see what I could do.  Chris was considerably more cautious.  As it turned out, her concerns and my determination were moot points. 

Soon after we turned onto 61st Street, one of the busiest on the Island, Chris noticed a pedestrian – a small dog - trying to cross the street.  Not such a good idea.  And to make matters worse, the poor little guy was gimping it, holding a back leg up the air as he drifted through traffic.  Chris slowed way down, willing to give the pup a wide berth to complete its mission.  Suddenly, however, all of our plans for the day changed.  The dog gave it one final surge to get across the street, which, because of its listing limp, put it right in our lane of traffic and right in front of our car.  By this time Chris was barely moving, so she hit the brakes full on.  And about the time we jerked to a stop, we heard the yelps from under the car.  Uh oh.  Not a good sign.  Chris slammed the car into park with a cry, “Oh no!  I hit it.  I hit it!” I got out to survey the damage (I almost said “jumped out” but that wouldn’t have been accurate by any stretch of the imagination.  My back really did hurt, but I was being brave). 

The little one was indeed under the car, right about in the very middle, hunched over and shivering.  Cars began to honk and swerve around us, scurrying to wherever it was they had to be “right now.”  About this time a lady on foot ran over to see if she could help.  She was a bit out of control, though, and started screaming at Chris to “Move up!  Move up!”  Chris was already shaken up, and you can imagine what was going through her mind.  I tried to calm things down a little and told Chris to move the car forward slowly.  I didn’t want to scare the dog into darting into traffic the other direction.  I had to urge her several times.  Found out later she was worried that she had actually run over the dog and it was under the wheel and she was going to hear a smash or pop or something any second.  As she inched forward another car whipped around from behind and slammed on her brakes right next to us.  She frantically informed us that there was a vet just ahead that we could take the dog to.  Thanks, lady.  Already stored that info.  It was our vet’s office.  She then whipped around in front of us, jumped out of her car and began digging into her trunk.  She raced back to where I was softly talking to the injured animal and petting it.  She had with her a big towel that she said we could wrap the dog in.  Better than the box we had in our car, I guess.  She then further informed us that she was a product rep for the vet and she was on her way there right then and we could follow her so we didn’t get lost.  And then she raced back to her car.  (“So we didn’t get lost.”  Right.  The vet’s office entrance was the very next driveway.  I think we can find it.  Appreciated her help, though.  Especially the towel.  And I love watching people’s responses to crises). 

We managed to gather up our new little charge.  Suddenly the helpful but very loud lady was backpedaling and wishing us well.  And there I stood on the side of 61st street with a bundle of injured dog, thinking, “I’m afraid I know where this is going.”  Somehow we managed to locate the vet’s office, and made our way inside.  They put us in the little room where they take you when you have to have a pet put to sleep, the “Bad News Room,” and told us to wait.  So much for our dance class.  (And as a side note, I noticed a call from the hearing aid place.  I returned it, and they said my appointment for the day had been moved to Thursday afternoon, “as I requested.”  I put up a bit of a fight, because I never made that request and because I really wanted to try out the new hearing aids.  But it was becoming rapidly apparent that we would have other things to do over the next few hours.  The aide came in and gave us some Good Samaritan paperwork to fill out.  Then she asked Killer Question Number One: “Are you going to keep her?”  There it was.  “Keep her” would mean paying the bills for whatever was about to happen.  It would mean shots and flea treatments and food.  (Just what we need after putting a $750 hospital bill on our credit card.  Can you set up a “Fund Me” account for a dog?).  It would mean introducing her to Fritz and Heidi, our other dogs.  It could possibly mean house breaking.  And before we could answer she moved on to Killer Question Number Two: “Have you named her yet?”  Whoa, there.  Slow down now.  I know the psychology behind that one.  If we name it we are about 90 times more likely to adopt it.  She pressed, saying she needed to put a name in the orders.  So I said the first name that popped into my head.  No thought involved.  The all-time great, go-to name I use for anyone whose actual name I can’t remember.  Fred.  I know.  She’s a girl.  But Chris and I are so on the same wavelength.  She quickly explained that we named all our female dogs after my grandmother, who threatened to come back and haunt us if we ever gave her name to one of our children.  Her name?  FREDericke.  Perfect. 

The doc finally came in and gave her the once-over.  She wanted some x-rays to diagnose the limp, but was generally optimistic.  Meds for pain.  Antibiotics.  ($271.35 so far).  Crate rest for a few days.  Return for a cracked tooth that needed to be pulled (another $150).  Return later for regular shots ($80-$100).  Return later for spaying (“just a few hundred dollars”).  So, after a few hours of observation we could come back and take her on home.  We were kind of reeling at that point.  At least I was.  Chris asked what would happen if we didn’t take her.  They would do enough to make sure she was comfortable, then send her to the shelter.  And with that, Chris was hooked.  Maybe a little bit of guilt for hitting her, but mainly Chris’ massively oversized heart for the stray kicked in.  Nope.  Not to the shelter.  We agreed that if the owner didn’t show up by the time we returned, then we would take her.  And about four hours later … there is a new Vaughan cousin.  Come by sometime and meet Fred.  Oh, and Nathan gave her the perfect middle name, too: “Roadkill,” in honor of what she almost was.  FREDericke Roadkill Vaughan.  Has a certain ring to it. 

2 Timothy 3:14-15 says, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Father, we’ll trust you and your resources yet again as we nurse this little lady back to health.  Guess I’ll have some company as we gimp around the house together.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

September 16 – “Myelogram Mission”

I tried to keep posted on FaceBook about this myelogram.  Put up some photos of key places we saw (country roads and stop signs and billboards advertising my age) and burning questions that kept forcing their way to the surface despite all efforts to hold them back (Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?  Loved the answer I got from Kenny, one of the fire fighters:”If you ask one more time I’m going to turn this car around.”  Brought back a few memories), each accompanied by whatever sight was on the horizon at the time.  Very helpful for those who really wanted to go with us but couldn’t make the journey.  Once we got inside St. Luke’s in Houston, however, it was a bit more difficult to post things, though certainly more exciting.  

Once inside we made our way past the hospital’s in-house McDonalds.  Always gives me a chuckle when I think about that.  Bastion of health and well-being hosting poster child for, well … let’s just say food that isn’t the best for your health.  We have spent many hours inside this place for me, Mom, and Chris’ Mom, so we kind of knew our way around.  We checked in at the registration desk and were handed something totally unexpected.  Truly one of those fascinating new innovations in medical marvelry.  Those of you who saw the picture understand when I tell you … they handed me a taser.  No, really.  It had the little electrodes on the end and everything.  I was mystified.  What could they possibly be planning behind those doors that would require me to have a weapon?  They must have noted my consternation.  One of them hastened to explained that the taser (no, she didn’t call it that.  I just didn’t want you to get confused) was actually one of those devices like you get at Shrimp n Stuff that buzzes when your order is ready.  I wasn’t too sure that I wanted to be holding a taser when it was remotely activated, but I agreed to take it and find a seat. 

Surprisingly, it didn’t take long before our taser buzzed.  My hand didn’t go numb or anything, so I guess they have indeed found a peacetime use for weapons technology.  The call was not for the test though.  Oh. No.  We can’t go “back there” until we get you registered.  It doesn’t matter that you spent half an hour on the phone the night before registering.  There was that one key blank they needed to fill in.  “Cash or credit card.”  Fortunately the Discover Card company has been close friends for years.  Well, I guess “friend” is not the word, but we have had enough of a relationship with them that they agreed to front us the $750.  The fellow registering us was fine with that.  As he took our card – and our taser - I leaned back in my chair, trying to get comfortable, or as close to it as a sore back and empty wallet would allow.  As I stretched I noticed a sign on a door off to our left.  Now I have to say that yes, I was nervous about this procedure.  I have had several myelograms before, and every one has turned out, well … painful.  Very painful.  I understand that there is no other way to proceed, however.  Anyway, the sign on the door gave me every reason to relax just a bit and know that I was in good hands at this hospital.  Oh, what did it say?  “Epic Training Room.”  Now come on.   If these guys train in the Epic Training Room, they have to be good, right?

Finally the call came for us to head to the holding area.  That’s hospital code for take all your clothes off and put the infamous hospital gown on.  Nurse Paula warned me that there were no strings on the back to tie.  Just three arm holes.  Wait.  Three armholes?  Where did they take us?  For the briefest of moments I really wanted my taser back.  But Chris reassured me that she would help figure out the alien technology.  It took me a while, but I finally located all three armholes and made my way into the costume, looping one arm through twice.  Hey, I guess it’s better than all those shoestrings they used to have.  I did my quick-ish change and crawled into the bed.  Sitting at the foot was one of those heated blankets.  They must have been expecting me.  Or else this was a ploy to get me to relax and let down my defenses.  But a warm blanket.  It felt nice.  My older, quite loving, and well-meaning brother offered this advice: “Warm blanket is OK.  If it’s warm and wet, change your diaper.”  See what I had to live with as a middle child?  Thanks so much, Jay.  I did appreciate the chuckle, though.  I suppose the rest of my time in the holding tank would have been pleasant enough, but there was a screamer.  A young girl several curtains down periodically screamed.  Not that she was in pain.  She just didn’t want to be left alone.  I’m sure she was pretty scared.  I prayed for her a lot.  They finally decided to change whatever procedure they were going to do to the operating theater so they could sedate her.  Good choice. 

I guess at some point I have to speak to the actual test, right?  For those of you out there who may be struggling with whether or not to have one of these.  A cute little radiology tech who I’ll call M.T. (I can’t remember her real name, but the initials will become self-explanatory later) came to get me and wheeled me away from holding to the x-ray room.  There I had to roll over on my stomach with my arms in front of me, never a comfortable position for me, even without a bad back.  M.T. was soothing, though, and talked me through the whole thing.  She cleaned the area thoroughly, wiping the betadine in an ever-increasing circular motion from the target area and slowly outward.  The doctor arrived and talked me through what he was about to do, warning about the dreaded possible after-effects (headaches, severe cramps, all the really fun ones).  He concluded his speech with, “That’s all normal.  They will all go away eventually.”  Great.  What a fun experience to look forward to.  M.T. stepped in and softened the blow somewhat, reassuring me over and over.  I guess I must have looked a bit stressed.  The needle work finally began.  The first one was the numbing medicine, not a problem.  Tiny stick.  Next came the actual needle into the spine.  Not sure what all was going on, but it seemed to take forever.  I could feel pressure as he pushed in, and then he snagged a nerve and … it hurt.  And another … it hurt.  I tried to stay quiet, but my anguished groans must have become audible.  M.T. came over and gently ribbed my arm, assuring me that it was almost over.  It was amazing how much that simple pressure on my arm helped when he nailed another and another nerve.  It gave my brain some sensory experience to focus on other than what was happening behind me.  Finally he began the dye injection.  Very strange feeling there.  Cold and pressure are the two descriptions that come to mind.  The sensation spread from my back down into my rear and my legs.  Kind of soothing, actually.  Finally he announced he was done.  Well, except for putting lots of pressure on the sight.  “We have to stop any oozing,” he explained.  He was kind of surprised when I answered, “Well, no.  We can’t have any oozing.”  They both laughed nervously. So I guess it broke the tension somewhat.  Or they were nervous about what they knew was about to happen when I rolled back onto the bed.  That’s when the real pain started.  This time it was the cramps down my back into my rear end and legs.  Pretty difficult to handle.  M.T. was right there, though.  She told me I could get on my side if that helped.  I tried it.  Not a whole lot better, but some.  And then she did something I never expected.  She started massaging my legs and back.  And it was helping.  I told her the massage was quite the surprise.  She matter-of-factly explained that her boyfriend was a football player and got cramps all the time.  I think maybe I had just experienced one of those trainees from the Epic Training Room.  St. Luke’s Hospital, keep up that Massage Tech (M.T.!!) program.  It is working. 

After a few minutes that seemed like an hour, the cramps subsided enough to be bearable, so we headed over to the CT room, where M.T. handed me off to the one who would do that test.  She promised that she would go check in Chris for me.  Hated to see her go.  The CT was a piece of cake.  It was harder to get from bed to bed than it was to endure the scan.  It only took five or ten minutes, and I was headed back to the holding room for another hour stay.  My discharge instructions included three commands from the doctor:
1.       Increase your caffeine intake.  No, really.  He said that.  Drink more coffee, tea, anything with caffeine.  Helps close the tiny little hole he stuck in my spine.
2.      Stay flat in bed with your head slightly raised for the next 24 hours.  The head raised part was to prevent any dye from getting into my brain.  That has happened to me before.  It will not happen again.  I will obey.
3.      Do nothing for the next three day.  Lay around the house.  Watch TV.  If your head starts hurting, go lie down.  It means the hole isn’t closed up yet. 
I promised to follow orders, with Chris standing over me with a stick of course, so the discharge was approved.  We got our car out of its holding area and headed home in the rain.  At four o’clock.  In Houston traffic.  Made worse by the ongoing police investigation of the bus accident.  But we made it.  Chris is one outstanding chauffeur.

So there you have it.  The Myelogram Mission 2015 is complete.  Now we wait for the surgeon’s office to call and schedule a review of the results.  Today my back is really sore, but still no headaches.  Chris and I are supposed to start our dance classes this morning.  I think we may go, but I apologized beforehand for not being able to dip her on the tango.  I think we may do a lot of watching.  Besides, we have to get my new hearing aids at 11:00, so we have to leave early anyway.  Life is so awesome.  And so ... ongoing.  Not really sure what’s next, but hey … bring it on.

2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Father, thank you for the true miracles that you have revealed to modern medicine.  And thanks even more for the miracle of human touch at a time of high stress.  M.T. was surely an angel in disguise.  Bless her mightily and draw her to you.  Amen.