Tuesday, November 29, 2011
So, it's back to the drawing board much as it is every year when it comes to getting the wife a Christmas present. I am not very good at this romantic Christmas present stuff. Over the years I have learned that pots and pans don't qualify as romantic no matter how much they are needed. I have learned that computer programs to simplify her life are not appreciated. I also know that a snow shovel or winter gear for the truck are not wanted. I have also learned not to buy the wife clothes--we have different styles of clothing that we think are nice. Wine is nice, but that is considered a stocking stuffer, and besides that is more of a gift for both of us. I don't think she wants a beer brewing kit . . . the wife is one tough cookie to get a Christmas present for, much less a romantic Christmas present.
Friday, November 25, 2011
This little tidbit was in the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated (November 28, 2011): Mr. Popularity. When a recent Public Policy Polling survey revealed that Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was viewed favorably by a record 89% of Wisconsin resident, the firm set out to find someone more well-liked. In a poll of 800 Americans on how favorably they viewed famous folk, it did--barely. These were the five that they shared: Abraham Lincoln, 91%; Jesus Christ, 90%, Aaron Rodgers, 89%; George Washington, 86%; and, Mother Teresa, 83%.
Thanks to this poll I now know what the "G" on the side of the Packers football helmets stand for: GOD. Its got to . . . how else do you explain Aaron Rodgers being more popular than the first president of the United States of America and the next saint, Mother Teresa? How else do you explain that Aaron Rodgers was only one percentage point behind Jesus Christ? (Well, on that one I just think that most people like Jesus a lot more than God--they can relate to Jesus, God . . . well, God seems a little more stand-offish.) Yeah, that "G" has got to stand for "God"--how else do you explain it?
Now, I want everyone to understand--I am not a Green Bay Packers fan by any stretch of the imagination. No, I am far from being a Packers fan--I am a die hard Minnesota Vikings fan and have been since the dark ages of the National Football League and Fran Tarkenton was the quarterback for the Vikings. With that being said, I have a low tolerance for Green Bay and anything related to Green Bay. Green Bay has always been a burr in the saddle for any true Viking fan. That being said, I must admit that the Packers have been impressive since winning last year's Super Bowl--they are undefeated at 11-0 and have beaten all challengers so far this year.
I just did not realize how much they were God's team. I had always thought that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were God's team--come on, they have "Touchdown Jesus"! Check out the picture above and compare it to this one:
Note the similarity . . . scary, isn't it? Explains a lot doesn't it? It has been a long time since an NFL team has been on a winning streak like this--plus to be this far into the season and still be undefeated. I think the Packers have a little divine assistance--an extra special "twelfth man". Yeah, God. It is difficult enough to beat a team on a roll, but having to beat them and God . . . good luck!
Whatever the case, it has been fun to see the Packers keep on winning. They seem to find ways to win and stick to their goals for the season--win the division, get into the play-offs, and defend their championship in the Super Bowl. As far as they are concerned going undefeated is just icing on the cake. I wouldn't bet against them--it is not good to bet against God. The Bible is full of examples of those who bet against God and the results were not pretty.
Well, I know I am not betting against God . . . especially with Aaron Rodgers gaining on Jesus in the popularity polls. I figure they go undefeated during the regular season and he will easily past Jesus in popularity. In fact, it might be too late:
If it's on the Internet it has to be true. I never imagined Jesus as a "cheese head"--but a picture is worth a thousand words! Oh well, at least I still have my Nebraska Cornhuskers . . . and since God switched over to the Packers and Notre Dame is out of the picture we still have a shot . . . a long, long shot! Oh well, I guess that is what you call faith!
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Like a recurring nightmare it has returned with a vengeance--Black Friday. I know a lot of people who look forward to this day with great excitement and anticipation--why I do not know or understand. I do not like to shop. Shopping is about the last thing I want to do with my time--ranks right up there with visiting the dentist or scheduling myself for a colonoscopy. The primary reason that I do not care for shopping is because so many people--lots of people--like and enjoy shopping. As an introvert I do not care to mingle with lots of strangers in public places looking for the best bargains--I'll wait for the summer yard sales where most of this stuff ends up. Black Friday is the ultimate shopping day in the United States and it happens every year on the day after Thanksgiving. It is a crazy time in which people seem to lose their minds as they scramble for the best deals that they can find. Civility is thrown out the window and curt behavior is the order of the day. It gets downright nasty at times and it is not for those who are weak or dislike shopping or are introverted. Since I am two out of the three I shudder at this recurring nightmare that shows up each year on the day after Thanksgiving.
There is great irony in the fact that Black Friday comes the day after Thanksgiving--think about it. On Thanksgiving Day we spend the whole day giving thanks for all the blessings we have in life--the whole day! Then we get up early (really early) and go on a gluttonous shopping spree that would make even the Romans in their heyday blush. It almost borders on the pornographic in how easily society gets sucked into the propaganda of Madison Avenue and all the corporations that drive the Black Friday frenzy. From a spirit of thanksgiving to gluttony--in less than twenty-four hours. But I am sure that those who survive a full day of Black Friday shopping are more than thankful at the end of the day. Not quite the spirit of giving thanks we spend all of Thanksgiving Day proclaiming, but to each their own.
Come Black Friday I plan on staying home and watching the University of Nebraska lay their rivals from the University of Iowa--starts at 10:00AM. The only way it becomes a Black Friday for me is if the Hawkeyes thump my Cornhuskers--always a possibility when Big Red plays. If that happens it will be a dark, dark day--a black Friday--for Husker Nation. From the comfort of my chair I will give thanks that I am not hassling with the crowds--the attitudes--and all the craziness that accompanies Black Friday. I will give thanks--despite losing hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of bargains for things I don't need--cheering on the Big Red from the safety of my home. I think that Maxine has a good point when it comes to saving money--especially when it comes to Black Friday:
In our church we offer a prayer of traveling mercies for those who take trips or go on a journey. It is a prayer to protect them and guide them until they return home. Thus it is that I offer a prayer of shopping mercies to those of you who go forth to brave the wackiness and irony of Black Friday. May God protect you and keep you, may you spend your money wisely, and may you return home safely with your haul. Happy Black Friday shopping to one and all!
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
"On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence."
~William Jennings Bryan
Everyone seems to be getting into the spirit of giving thanks the past couple of days. It always seems to happen around this time of year--Thanksgiving. Racking my mind for something to write about I was inspired by my daughter's blog The Luckiest (http://www.misscandacepk.blogspot.com/) to write a blog about giving thanks, but she did a pretty good job. Last evening we pretty much beat the topic to death at the annual Community Thanksgiving Service in which we gave thanks for just about everything under the sun. Besides, I really do not think people are really interested in my list of things and people that I am thankful for. But, I want everyone to know that I am thankful . . . very, very thankful!
"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice."
My giving of thanks comes from not people, places, or things, but from relationships. It has been because of relationship to and with people, places, and things that I have reason to give thanks. It has been through relationship that I have been touched and woven into the fabric of the life that is lived by each of us on a daily basis--a tapestry of sorts--that defines me as one of God's children. In these relationships there is witness of my existence, our existence--that our stories mean something more than mere existence. That we have touched life and life has touched us in all of its goodness and darkness--that we have survived. That we our thanks is grounded in our dependence to one another.
One of my most favorite movie quotes comes from Shall We Dance. It is a quote that speaks to this dependence and the power of relationships: "We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'." Relationships validate our existence and that we will not go un-witnessed.
With that having been said, I want to thank all the people, places, and things in my life have blessed my life with relationship. It has been good to have been a part of another's story and life as they have been a part of mine. In this regard there is much to be thankful for--more than I could ever recite in a simple prayer around the table. It is a prayer that spans a lifetime of those relationships that have been weaved through the tapestry that is me. It is a prayer for those who are living and those who are no longer here--those who have gone before me. It is a prayer for those who are to come and touch my life. A prayer for those who are close by and those far away. Without any of these relationships I would not be who I am today or who I will be tomorrow. I depend upon each and every one. Without them there is no reason to give thanks.
Tomorrow as we gather with family and friends, let us take a moment to look around at who is gathered and who is missing . . . to look in one another's eyes . . . and to pause for a minute to join hands, and give thanks for those relationships that have brought us together. And, let us acknowledge that we need each other. In our dependence we discover ourselves and our purpose--to love one another. It all begins with a relationship . . . Amen.
Friday, November 11, 2011
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.The above quote is attributed to the Reverend Martin Niemoller. Niemoller was an ardent nationalist and prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.
The big news this past week has to do with the Penn State scandal involving their football team, administration, and legendary football coach Joe Paterno. The simple version of the scandal is that the university administration, football staff, and others averted their eyes to the sexual manipulation and abuse of young children perpetuated by one of their own--former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky--for nearly fifteen years. The result of this scandal has been a massive firing of those involved in the cover-up--including the legendary Joe Pa.
To say the least, there has been an uproar over Joe Pa's firing from the Nittany Lion faithful. It is not every day that a legend and football icon with the winningest record of all-time gets fired. Students rioted. People cried, "Foul!" and "Joe Pa got screwed!" But the end result was that the right decisions were made by the Penn State's Board of Trustees even if it was way too late and to cover their butts for what should have been done way back in 1999. Their righteous indignation is a little too late and merely an attempt in protecting the university and themselves. This scandal is far, far from over and will probably get much uglier before it is ever over.
I love college football and this scandal rocked my world. Not because it was a black eye for college football--which it is, but because it produced an epiphany of how screwed up loyalty to a program can get when there has been a great injustice has been committed. Let us not pretend that a great injustice--criminal action--has been not been committed because it has. The lives of those thus identified, plus those who have yet to come forward proclaiming that they too were victims of this sexual abuse, have been damaged and made more difficult because of the sins that were committed against them. Who got the worse of this situation? Joe Pa and those who sat on this for years or those who suffered the abuse? Loyalty to the program and the myth perpetuated the lie and the abuse for far too long.
It is never fun to be the first one caught doing a wrong--Penn State will attest to this. Yet, I have no doubt in my own mind that Penn State is not the only university that plays sports that has not put the program and myth before the lives of those who have suffered injustice at the hands of the program, staff, and players. As a University of Nebraska football fan I have witnessed the program and university wiggle its way out of scandal several times over the decades--from Johnny Rodgers to today. All them have skeletons in their closets. Even here in Montana where the beloved Grizzlies of the University of Montana have had their own scandals this season, there must have been a collective sigh of relief when it was Penn State and not them who got caught.
I can remember the time when the beloved football god, Tom Osborne, saved the season manipulating the system when one of his players beat the crud out of his ex-girlfriend and another player seeing her. I remember how that player ended up playing in the post-season bowl when he should have been sitting in a jail. It was all for the good of the university and the football program--for saving the myth! And, I bought into it when I should have spoken out for the victims. Someone should have spoken for the victims.
That is the greatest sin that Joe Pa committed. He had the responsibility to do more than the legal, bare minimum of reporting the offense to his superiors--he should have called the police. The dominoes fall as they do as there were many who knew what was going on but chose to say nothing. They chose not to speak for those who could not speak. That is the greatest sin committed.
The legacy of the winningest collegiate football coach will be forever tainted because he choose not to speak up to an injustice that he was aware of. Who knows the reasons that he chose to look the other way and do the bare minimum--friendship, loyalty, pride, stubbornness? Who knows? What we do know is that we can understand why he did what he did--we can understand his looking the other way--to protect the program and myth and integrity of the program. In this, we too, we are implicated. We are guilty.
For those young boys--some who are young adults today--our hearts should be broken and, our prayers for them should be lifted. This should have never happened and when it did, witness by others, someone should have spoken up for those who couldn't speak. Joe Pa got fired--but he did not suffer the trauma of being sexually abused or raped. He will get over it in his retirement, but these boys have a long, long way before they will ever get over what happened to them. Someone should have spoken out for them . . .
There are lessons to be learn, but the greatest of these is that each and everyone of us has a responsibility to speak out against injustice--whatever form it takes--so that those who cannot speak will be heard. Trust me it is worth the cost because some day we may need someone to speak out for us.
Monday, November 7, 2011
It now has been seven days since I had my hernia repair surgery. When I got home from the hospital after an overnight stay, I felt on top of the world--no pain, no aches, nothing. At the time I thought the recovery/recuperation from the surgery would be a piece of cake. Little did I realize at that point that this was what people refer to as "better living through chemistry". The next morning the euphoric episode of well-being laid in bed wondering what semi-truck had run me over! Recovery/recuperation had begun and let me say this--it is not for wimps!
The pain from the actual surgery was just as the doctor had promised it would be--worse than the previous two surgeries. After three surgeries one would think that I would take doctors at their word, but no, that preemptive and false euphoria of that first night home had given me hope. Silly me! The pain was real and hurt to do just about anything that I ever took for granted--cough or sneeze, tie my shoes, pick up a piece of trash, sit down, stand up--all were torture of the worse kind. Thank goodness for the wonders of those pills that the doctor sent me home with . . . that Endocet worked wonders. Amazing stuff and really did take away the pain. As I stated earlier, this was better living through chemistry!
Sleeping was another adventure. I sleep on my stomach, with all the incisions and stitches on my stomach, sleeping on my stomach was out of the question. I had to sleep on my back. Sleeping on my back induces noises that have a tendency to keep others awake. The wife does not appreciate when I snore. Also, sleeping on my back confuses our Dachshund, Dora, as she doesn't have her usual place to sleep. Needless to say there have been three unhappy souls in the bed lately. Add toe cramps to the unhappiness and one begins to understand how disruptive all this recovery/recuperation can be.
But the worse part of recovery/recuperation was getting the plumbing working once again. For those who have never had surgery . . . be forewarned! Anesthesia and pain medication does a number on the body's plumbing--big time! The doctor warned me about this, even suggested that I prepare myself by getting some laxatives, and must smirked as he left the hospital room. Again, another thing that I had forgotten from my previous two surgeries. Needless to say, the doctor was right and getting the whole plumbing thing working was a royal pain in the rear! The toilet and I were not good friends.
Typically surgical patients are not released from the hospital until they have passed gas and had a bowel movement--neither of which I had when I was released. Gas pain is the worse pain--it was even worse than the incision pain. It was like having a great big helium balloon trapped in the bowels that kept expanding and expanding until I thought I was going to pop. Never in my life had I wanted to fart and couldn't. After several days of suffering it finally happened--the pain and the ecstasy. It practically knocked me to the floor it hurt so bad, but felt so good to release all that pressure. I imagine the wife thought I had died when I let out that blood curdling cry. Who knew a release of gas--a fart--could bring so much relief?
The bowel movement took several more days before it was accomplished. During this time the pain was pretty immense, but the bowels were not cooperating. My wife was encouraging as she kept telling me to "let it rip!" The porcelain throne and I became well acquainted for several days. I read through most of the library we keep in the throne room. I moaned and groaned and cursed with each little false start. When it finally happened the moaning, groaning, and cursing increase as I honestly thought I was going to die. But I survived. Recovery/recuperation is not for wimps.
It has now been seven days. The pain from the surgery is diminishing and I am back at work. I still get tired, but it is not too bad. The plumbing all works and I would hold it up to just about any one else's plumbing. I can almost sleep on my stomach again, that will probably be another couple of days--both the dog and wife will be happy. I can tie my own shoes. I can even drive. The end of this recovery/recuperation process is almost over. In another week or two I should be practically back to my old self--scary as thought might be. I can't wait. I am tired of being this tough guy--I am ready to get back to being a wimp.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Yesterday was the "big day"--not for the sake of running around in scary or cute costumes for Halloween, but for the surgery that I so valiantly scheduled and endured endless tests to qualified for--primarily the heart stress test to prove that my heart was physically and spiritually healthy! It all began with me arriving at the hospital at 10:00AM for check-in for the 1:00PM surgery--a full hour before I had to be there. From the front desk--where they attempt to "ease one's mind" by discussing payment and other horrendous financial obligations--they whisked me back into the pre-surgery suite to prepare for the surgery. This is where the "patient"--me--gets to get prepped for surgery.
First there are the endless questions that I have already answered several times prior to this moment concerning my health. I am not sure if this is some sort of psychological test to see whether or not my health status has changed since the last time I answered all these questions. Then comes all the health measurements--height (yep, I am still the same height), weight (actually had lost some weight wading through all the repetitive questions), blood pressure, and more. And then, finally, the gown.
Hospital gowns are a severe test of one's humility. They never seem to fit--either too large or small. Every draft can be felt in a hospital gown. One has to endure endless wise cracks (pardon the pun) about the moon rising that seem to crack (again, forgive the pun) everyone else up except the person having to endure this humiliation. I got to lay there on the examining table--you know the ones I am talking about that are made out of plastic and covered with a think sheet--for over three hours thanks to the backlog of surgeries that bumped mine to 3:15PM. To say the least the draft in the air, the cool temperature of the room, and my embarrassment definitely added a little color to my cheeks.
Eventually a young medical person arrived and introduced himself as the anesthesiologist. He wanted to inform me of the process of putting me under for the actual surgery and the risks that that might involve--you know the usual stuff to ease one's mind before surgery. No big deal he said as he listed a myriad of possible things that could go wrong. Then he proceeded to ask whether or not I would like a little shot to help with the anxiety he just created--sort of pre-sedative before the real stuff. Something to take the edge off, he said. Sure, I said. I was thinking that it would be something that would relax me before the real McCoy . . . the next thing I know I am waking up in my hospital room, feeling extreme pain, and looking at the wife and a nurse! I don't know what that stuff was but it sure calmed my anxieties! It was good stuff--I guess that is what they mean by better living through chemistry!
Since I pretty much missed the whole surgery--though I did donate my body to the process--I was informed about what the surgeon did. Basically through the wonders of a procedure called laparoscopy the doctor went between the skin and muscle to determine the size of the hole that was creating the hernia--turned out to be a hole about the size of a silver dollar. They mapped this out on my midsection, then cut out the mesh that they were going to use to cover the hole, and then proceeded--again through the laparaoscopy process--to insert this between the intestines and muscles where the hole was. On this mesh were eight strands of surgical stitching that was the pulled through the muscles and skin to my midsection. I now have twelve little holes that form a perfect circle on my stomach area! To say the least it was and still is painful! Worse than the first two surgeries I had for this hernia.
From there it was pretty much routine hospital stuff that one endures after a surgery. Lots of antibiotics to fight infections. Walking up and down the hallway. Liquid diet--which is wonderful when one hasn't eaten in nearly 24 hours! Beef broth does not quite hit the spot like a Whopper or Big Mac. Pain medicine. Being woke up every hour on the hour throughout the night. But, I got smart. I asked for some pajama bottoms to wear under my hospital gown--much warmer! My overnight stay was not too bad . . .
. . . that was until the next morning--this morning--when the nurse showed up with another shot needle. Just a little ol' shot to prevent blood clots in the stomach, she said. Of course I wanted to know exactly where the shot would be administered--the stomach, she said. Really, I said. Really, she said. Visions of the scene from Pulp Fiction in which John Travolta has to pound a syringe of adrenaline through the chest and into the heart of Uma Thurman as she is unconscious due to a cocaine overdose. The nurse assures me that it won't hurt. I can't get the scene out of my mind. Surprisingly, the shot didn't hurt. The nurse just laughed. That pretty much was the last of my humiliation while at the hospital--that and not being able to tie my shoes because I couldn't bend over. Thank goodness the wife was there to tie my shoes!
Needless to say the adventure is now over and the period of recuperation has begun. The doctor set me up with some pretty good pain medicine, though it is nothing like the stuff that knocked me out with. Instead of knocking me out it makes me sleepy all of the time, but I feel nothing for the most part. It even allows me to tie my own shoes, but I have elected to wear my slipper instead. I have survived yet another hernia surgery--and knowing my abs of cotton candy, the mesh should prevent further hernias. I want to thank everyone who took the time to say a prayer for me, or to think of me, as I was having the surgery--I appreciate each and everyone of those prayers and thoughts. Each one was helpful. It is good to know that there are folks out there who care--thank you all!
The wife has reminded me that it has been a "big day" and that the doctor wants me to rest. With rest comes recuperation and healing. The sooner I heal, the sooner I can quit asking the wife to tie my shoes. I know she would appreciate that. In the meantime, join with me in remembering the Popping Fresh Doughboy--may he rest in peace!