Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday Shout Outs!

You can tell this blog is officially getting back in the swing of things, because here is a new edition of my Saturday Shout Outs! Enjoy, and let me know if there is news I need to know!

  • Marilyn and I had a nice 27th anniversary celebration yesterday, including having Will join us for dinner at Outback last night.  27 years is a long time. I will turn 54 in October, so even with my feeble math skills I can calculate that we have now been married more than half of our lives. Wow. Just so none of us forget, here's how we looked when it all started...
    On our honeymoon
  • As for Will, he is loving his college classes (which are all on Mondays and Wednesdays) and his job at Chick-fil-A, where you can find him most every other day except Sunday.  He works in the back preparing food, and is becoming a master of fixin' the Christian chicken. He also still manages to work in plenty of time with Michelle. Life is good for my 18 year old! 
    He looks so official, doesn't he?
  • The other member of our family, Conner the Dog, is not doing quite as well.  He is having terrible itching problems which baths and other home remedies have not been able to conquer.  He scratches, chews and licks himself constantly. He is going to the vet later this morning. We hope she can help. We also hope he can avoid the "cone of shame." He doesn't even like having a bandanna around his neck.
  • For those of my readers who know Ashley Goad (Springfield Friends Meeting), she has relocated to Shreveport, LA as of August 1 as is working as the missions pastor at a UMC church there.  So proud of Ashley and all of her work, and I pray for her daily. Join me!
  • Also relocating is Cyndi Reep Browning (FUMC-Kissimmee) who is finally getting to reunite with her husband who moved to Alabama months ago for a new job. Cyndi and son Grayson will be moving in a week, so be praying for that family! On a side note, it seems that more and more I know a lot of really cool people who live in Alabama.  Who'd a thunk it? :)
  • I watched a bit of the VMA's this past week with Will (mostly the Justin Timberlake part- Will has serious man-crush on JT!) but had much more fun following the rest of it on Twitter. My favorite tweet said this- "You know how bad the state of pop music is in 2013 when the entire world is so freakin' excited to see N'Sync again!" Brilliantly said!
  • I have already told you since my return to blogging how much the love and support of my friends and family has meant to me as I recover from my most recent surgery.  I won't try to list everyone who has brightened my day with texts, calls, Facebook messages and tweets, but I appreciate you all. There are, however, three people who warrant special mention.  Jamie Robinson (Springfield), who checked on me and never let me forget that this blog was missed; Marie Allen (Springfield). who shared her own trials and tribulations with me as I shared with her, and who never failed to give me hope; and Susan McBane Tuggle (Quaker Lake) without whom this summer would have been a lot worse than it was. We laughed, cried, prayed and completely forgot that it's been 20 years since we've actually seen each other.  Modern communication is a wonderful thing.  Woo hoo, Susan!  LOL
  • I don't know about anyone else, but I don't think I have ever looked forward to a season of a TV show as much as I look forward to the upcoming final year of How I Met Your Mother!   It will legend...wait for it...dary! 
  • And speaking of TV, is anyone else hooked on Under the Dome? The entire Jones family is! Any guesses as to what the egg is?
  • I had a great lunch this past Wednesday with Todd Willis (FUMC-K), Kristin Willis and  family here in Tampa.  It was great to catch up, talk about life, and introduce the kids to wonders of hushpuppies. Good times!
  • And finally...we currently have a free preview period of XM satellite radio in our car.  I have been listening to the 70's on 7 quite a bit, and have realized that about half of what they play is already on my I-pod. This may be a sign I am getting old. I choose to ignore it!
So that's it for now.  Have a great weekend and let me hear from you!  Be blessed!

Because of Jesus,

Friday, August 30, 2013

Recovery..and Baseball

Happy anniversary to my lovely wife Marilyn, who for reasons known only to her has continued to  put up with me for 27 years as of today. You can read more about her tomorrow on my Saturday Shout Outs!
In the weeks following my July 17th surgery I was limited in the things I could do, and the opportunity was there for me to go completely stir crazy. I was supposed to stay off my of my foot and keep it elevated whenever possible. I was strapped to a portable IV pump that was giving me my antibiotics. I was often light-headed from the blood pressure medicine. Only a week after leaving the hospital, Marilyn took her annual trip to NC to visit family. Will was working at Chick-fil-A and making final preparations to start his college classes. The opportunity to be bored out of my mind was there. I was going to need to find ways to stay sane.

Fortunately, I have great family and friends. Will made sure to check on me, to walk the dog for me and to help with whatever I needed. Marilyn called every night. A number of old friends were in regular contact through text messages to make sure I was behaving myself and getting better. One very special friend (who asked not to be named here) suggested that I start putting ideas together for writing a novel, and I did that. It was a great distraction, and one that I intend to follow up on. But even with all of that, I had a lot of time to sit in front of the TV.  And the thing that really saved my sanity then and in the weeks since
"Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal."  ~George Will

If you know me or have read this blog over the years, you know how much I love baseball. And the past 5 weeks or so I have found myself immersed in the game unlike anytime since my childhood. I have watched my beloved Rays fight to stay in contention for the playoffs, and pretty much every other game I can find as well. I watched the Little League World Series. I have watched the MLB Network so much that I am beginning to feel like I know all of the personalities on their shows. I have become involved in debates over old school baseball values verses new age baseball sabermetrics.  I at least partially understand what WAR (Wins Over Replacement) means, and have pretty much rejected the concept.  I think it was Tolstoy (Seinfeld reference) who said it best- "WAR...ugh...what is it good for...absolutely nothin!"  I am watching Miguel Cabrera  have the season of a lifetime...for the second year in a row.  I saw Ryan Dempster plunk A-Rod, and then watched as Alex took his revenge with a 450 foot home run.  And I have watched as Wil Myers, a rookie from my old stomping grounds of Archdale-Trinity, NC has taken Tampa Bay by storm with his bat and his swagger. It's been great fun. Baseball has been an amazing distraction during my recovery.  To quote the great Garrett Morris character from the earliest years of SNL... 
"Base-a-ball been berra berra good to me!"  ~Chico Esquela

The great baseball writer and current ESPN personality Tim Kurkjian once wrote that he understands why people think baseball is boring- because it is. It's slow paced compared to other sports. It can drag.  Baseball can be boring. Until it is not. And then it is amazing. Even after 150 years of plying the game, things happen EVERY NIGHT that have never happened before. Baseball gets inside me. It lights me up. I love this game!

So with the start of college football and the NFL most folks can go back to ignoring this grand sport. But for me, its place in my heart has been cemented by the part is has played and is playing in my recovery. So to all my friends out there, keep texting and tweeting and e-mailing me. I love the connections, and you have been so kind and supportive of my during this tough time.. But just know that while we are talking, I probably am watching baseball. And loving it...  Have a blessed day!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Ballad of Seven Toe Jones

Before I continue the tale of my summer adventure, I want to say what a blessing it was to get share lunch with the Todd Willis family at Jimbo's here in Tampa yesterday. They were down on vacation and took time out of their schedule to hang with me. Love you guys!

On the morning on July 17, 2013, Marilyn drove me to my podiatrist.  I had been feeling terrible, and now I had another toe that looked infected. Our stay there was a short one, as they took one look and once again sent me off to the emergency room. After my two week visit the previous November, this was not a place I longed to return to- but you have to do what you have to do.  So back I went.

A decision was made very quickly that I was going to lose another toe, this time the 4th toe on my right foot. At least I would be balanced now- 4 toes on each foot. Things progressed quickly, and early that very evening I was off to surgery.  By the time they put me under, the doctors had made it clear that they would actually be taking the 4th toe AND the 3rd toe, just for precaution. So much for balance. It was two for the price of one day- except that this was part of the health care system, so it was more like two for the price of three!  The surgery was uneventful, and I woke up in recovery pain free and very aware of my surroundings.  I was back to my room in no time.  By lunch the next day I had been up and walked to the restroom. Nurses were amazed. For better or for worse, I knew how to handle this toe amputation stuff...

But as they say in every VH-1 Behind the Music, "behind the scenes things were falling apart." Before I continue, I need to make something perfectly clear.  The nurses and staff of the hospital could not have been more caring or competent.  I didn't require a lot of attention, but they were always there when I needed them, and the showed concern for me at every turn- including worrying with me about my doctors.  I had several doctors who were in on what should happen to me next, and they couldn't seem to agree on anything. To make this a bit clearer I need to tell you about the wound left by the surgery.  With a toe amputation, it can't be just sown up like you would think- that leaves too much opportunity for recurring infections. The wound is left open, and can take months of treatment to heal properly. So there are 3 areas of medicine heavily involved in planning that treatment. The surgeon (who by virtue of seeing himself as a god thinks no one else knows anything); the infectious disease doctor (responsible for managing my antibiotics in the weeks following leaving the hospital); and the wound care specialist who makes sure I actually heal.  In addition, there is the "attending physician" from the hospital staff who supposedly coordinates all of this. When I had been in the hospital the first time, I understood very little of this or how things would work, and had been left just just nod and smile at everything I was told. Thus I was there 14 days.  This time, I KNEW what I needed.  The wound from my big toe amputation had healed in half the promised time, and I saw no need to change what we had done before. And I wanted to get started right away. Send me home. Let me go for a daily antibiotic IV with the infectious disease people for as long as needed- they could also help manage the wound area. Then ship me off to the wound doctor who would pump up the recovery speed and finish the job. It seemed both proven and simple to me. But the doctors chose not to listen and to keep debating a plan of action.  The surgeon kept saying he wanted a wound vac placed on my foot, and absolutely NO ONE else agreed with him. He kept fighting, yet never ordered the vac. I laid in a hospital bed for the next couple of days getting more and more frustrated while basically NOTHING was being done to treat the wound. I was stressed beyond words. The attending said he was ready to release me on day 2 but couldn't until the surgeon signed off on it.  Finally, after 5 days and some serious "prodding" from my wife. the head nurse  started making calls and go it done. I went home- never having seen the wound vac.
The foot as it looks today

In addition to the joy of daily trips to get antibiotics, there was also an unexpected joy in the post-surgery period. I had been so stressed the last few days in the hospital that my blood pressure went up significantly. I have never had blood pressure issues, but they put me on blood pressure pills. Within a week after my release, I began to have dizzy spells and feel light-headed almost every time I stood up.  I thought it was the antibiotics; in fact. I now had LOW blood pressure.  I am now off the pills and feeling fine. The foot is healing well, and I am seeing the wound doctor once a week. I feel blessed that I am receiving such good care, and that my body heals as fast as it falls apart. But much healing is still needed, not just for my body but for my heart, soul and spirit as well.  If you are inclined to pray, I covet your prayers. 

If you know me, you know I often look for humor in dark places.  It occurred to me at some point while laying in the hospital bed that I now have 7 toes, and that my new nickname could be Seven Toe Jones. I say that name and picture an old pirate, or perhaps a gunslinger in the wild west. Or maybe a tap dancer (NO!). It is a name about which songs should be written (working on that) and tales should be told. So as I recover from this round of surgery, I proceed forward with a new identity and a smile in my heart.  I know that in this life there will be troubles.  And I know that Jesus is with me through it all. I know God never gives us more than we can handle (although lately I have wished God didn't trust me quite so much) and so I trust in his healing power.  This summer beat me up pretty badly- but it didn't BEAT me. I am still standing. It's just on 7 toes...

Because of Jesus,

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What I Did On My Summer...Vacation???

At the Reunion
Looking back now, I should have seen the inevitable crash coming. It was really pretty obvious, but I chose to ignore the warning signs and revel in my own little world. Some of you will remember that on April 20 of this year there was a reunion for folks who had been part of the student ministry of the First United Church of Kissimmee between 1994-2000 when I served there. Every moment of that weekend was glorious, surpassing even my most unreasonable expectations!  For the week that followed, we relived the event through pictures and Facebook interactions, and talked boldly about when the next reunion might occur. Then the talk died down, and everyone returned to their normal lives. And I simply crashed.  All of the joy of the weekend turned into a bit of depression as I began to face the facts that I had spent a year planning, anticipating, connecting with old friends and dreaming about that weekend, and now it was over.  It had been my "next big thing," and now I was left without one. I realized how badly I missed youth ministry, how badly I missed the big events. I found myself longing to be with a group like that again, and wanting to so much to have a reunion with my old Springfield Friends Meeting group before we all join AARP. But those things are not possible right now. Throw in some extenuating circumstances in my personal life, and suddenly I was having a very hard time finding the joy in life. Exactly one month after the event, I stopped blogging. I backed off of Twitter. And I didn't quite know what to do with myself.

Marilyn & Will
Fortunately, my son Will had enough going on for us both.  On May 31st he graduated from Sickles High School- with honors! It was a great day, and we were so proud of his accomplishments. Marilyn's mom and sister came down for the big event, and we all attended together.  That evening for dinner we all met up with Michelle's (Will's girlfriend) family and shared a celebration at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse. It was a special day, and I know Will enjoyed the festivities- which is really all that matters. But even in the midst of the joy, I was struggling.  My mom had planned to attend, but was too sick to make the hour-long drive to Tampa. Not only did I miss her being with us, but her absence made me miss my father (he passed away in 2006) even more than usual.  I cannot overstate the influence my parents had on Will's life, especially when he was much younger. To have neither of them at his graduation just felt wrong.  I cried more than once that day. Life is filled with joys and sorrows, huh?

Alex, Michelle, Will, Marilyn, Jerry & Lisa
June and early July passed without anything huge impacting my life, just the general ups and downs of living with my circumstances. For those who don't know or may have forgotten, I live under a fair number of legal restrictions.  I was diagnosed with diabetes and had the left toe on my big foot amputated on November 1, 2012. There are days when it feels like too much to deal with and I feel sorry for myself, and this was multiplied by the general funk I was still feeling. Friends and family did their best to encourage me and give me reasons to smile, and there were plenty of good days. Lots of trips to see summer blockbuster movies with family and friends. A few overnight visits from Jerry Hanbery, and a chance to catch up with old friends like Ben Thacker and Josh & Sarah Crudele-Fry. Lots of texts from people I love and care about. There were plenty of ups. But I was struggling.  I looked forward to July 16th and Will's 18th birthday. A group of us were headed to Bahama Breeze for dinner and to celebrate in style, including Michelle, her brother Alex and our dear friends Lisa Jewett and the aforementioned Mr. Hanbery.  The weekend before I began to feel bad- stomach issues and just a general weakness.  I rested for a few days, hoping to be at full strength by Tuesday the 16th. But instead, things got worse, and I finally had to admit that I could not go to the party. I was miserable. I felt awful anyway, and missing the party just about did me in.  After Marilyn returned home, I noticed a stain on my sock and checked it out.  One of the toes on my right foot looked awful. We made immediate plans to see the podiatrist (whom I had just seen a week earlier and been given a clean bill of health) the next morning. My life was about to take another drastic turn...

Join us tomorrow, dear readers, and I will sing you (well, tell you) the Ballad of 7 Toe Jones!

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Happy 4th Birthday, Blog!

On August 26, 2009 I began to dabble with this insignificant little blog that I hoped might help me find distraction (and some daily discipline) through telling my story and the work of amazing grace of Jesus in my life.  For the first 3 + years. a post appeared in this space every day- most of them new, and most of them written by me. I confessed my sins here, shared deep truths here, made fun of things here and just generally provided readers with a large picture window into my life. Most of the stories and surreal tales came from my years in youth ministry, which ended way back in 2007. I thought the strangest days were behind me. I was SOOO wrong! Since Halloween of 2012, my life has been a wild rollercoaster ride, and for the past 3 months I have not posted at all. And I have missed it.

Yesterday this blog turned 4, and thinking bout the past 4 years - the highs, the lows, the ups and the downs- inspired me to return to blogging. My goal once again will be to post every day. To all of you who have been so patient and encouraging during my hiatus, I say a hearty "thank you!"  To those of you who have been been praying for me and my health issues, I cannot fully express my gratitude. I am so blessed in so many ways...

Life is messy. I am coming up on my 54th birthday, and I can tell you that life does NOT get easier as you get older.  I have a number of health issues to battle. Relationships are still complicated. Friendships fluctuate.  I still can't jump.  :)  But there is no doubt in my mind that these struggles are less depressing and less daunting when shared with people I love and who I know care about me. 

So I'm back. Back to share my stories, my insights, my humor, my sorrows, and most importantly, my belief that the love of God whose name is Jesus will never leave nor forsake me- even when it feels like I am all alone. Over the next couple of days I will fill you in on what I was up to during my "vacation." It's been crazy, and I do have some stories to tell.  As usual, stories about real life are both humorous and mind boggling. Once again, all I have to say is- I'd laugh...but all this happened to me!  See you tomorrow.

Because of Jesus,