L4 and L5 and Sciatica

I thought it was Lyme Disease that had gone to my hip and leg. So did the doctors. An MRI shows that it is a disc protusion. I can’t figure out if this is a bummer or what. It’s good to know that I don’t have permanent damage left over from the Lyme of the summer months. But I don’t like the sound of disc protusion. Maybe it’s just what it is, and I should move on from there.

Next week the doctor will lay out the next steps. I am hoping that Physical Therapy will do it. Sometimes I think I am doing better, certainly much better than early summer. If this progress continues, I could be on my way to a full healing (though I wonder about there being a continued weakness in that area).

Paradise Lost

John Milton wrote this great work when he left Santa Barbara. (Is this revisionist history?) Actually, this is how people feel when they leave Santa Barbara.

I left Ben on Wednesday afternoon and took the red eye back to Boston to hit the ground running. The trip to get Ben settled went perfect, PTL! A lot could have gone wrong that didn’t. And a lot more went right that we were expecting. Ben’s shipment of things from Boston even arrived early. (I guess things just go better in Santa Barbara).  He ended up with a great roommate. I know that because his roommate’s dad took us all out to eat at a great restaurant on the beach!!!

Ben and I spent Wednesday morning on the beachfront and wharf at Santa Barbara and then did some cruising among the shops on beautiful State St. Wow!!! It’s hard to shake the Walmart urges – blue vests and gray hair make my day. But I was getting used to the CA look.

On landing back in Boston I was reminded how beautiful our area is. Most of all it is GREEN.  There are very few places as attractive as the South Shore. And who wants all that boring 72 degree weather all the time anyway?

 Now Sharon and I are officially empty nesters. The guys are gone! But we are working on Christmas plans to get everyone together. I already can’t wait.

My Day/My Week

We arrived home last night from Pittsburgh. It was an exciting and fulfilling weekend. Sharon and I drove all day Friday and then rested a good part of Saturday. On Saturday night there was a convocation for engineering students who were graduating. Each was presented to the audience along with a description of their achievements at college and their immediate plans. It was a very impressive group of people. I remember the engineering students during my college days – not much time for anything but the books, grinding away. That certainly was Ben’s life, though he worked hard at balancing his life out.

Sunday was the commencement in the basketball arena. Tom Ridge, the first director of Homeland Security, was the speaker. There were too many students to recognize so they had the different schools stand together to receive their “pronouncement of graduation.” But it was still 2 and 1/2 hours.  It was a beautiful day weather wise – really beautiful.

Then we hustled back to Ben’s apartment for packing, which took about three hours. This is where Sharon goes into overdrive as she visualizes where each box goes in the van. We fell into bed pretty much exhausted from a very long day.

On Monday we drove back to Boston but hit a three hour traffic jam. An accident had closed the interstate. So we pulled in a bit later than we had hoped. We got the van dropped off and picked up the dog (thank you, Watermans, for the dog care). And then once again dropped into bed with a plop!!!

Ben will be with us until early September and then head out to CA for graduate studies. We are hoping he will be able to get out to Chicago to spend some time with Jon and that Jon will be able to get home so we can be together as a family before everybody takes their positions in different part of the country – Boston, Chicago and Santa Barbara.

God has been with us every step of the way.

No more college tuition bills!!!!

Yep, that’s right, folks. It’s done. But it isn’t about me. This is Ben’s time. He graduates this coming Sunday, April 29, from the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Material Science Engineering and a double minor in physics and philosophy. But Ben being Ben, the experience he is really looking forward to this weekend is the NFL draft all day Saturday.

We are working with my older son, Jon, to see if he can fly out from Chicago to Ben’s graduation. It would be great to be together. Hope it works out. Three years ago we were going out to Golden, CO to attend Jon’s graduation at the Colorado School of Mines, help pack him up and bring him home.

It’s been quite a ride, sons. Well done.

Ben’s next step is to move out to Santa Barbara, CA to do PhD work at UC in material sciences. Classes start in late Sept but he hopes to move out there in August.

What’s going on

So here it is what is coming up, going on, happen’.

1. We are gearing up to go to Ben’s graduation on April 29 from the University of Pittsburgh. (Pitt got beat by UCLA last night). He will graduate with a degree in Material Sciences Engineering and two minors in Philosophy and Physics.

2. Been reading Caesar: The Life of a Colossus and The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them.

3. Next week I start teaching Bible at evening college and the following week I add another course on Philosophy. It will be busy.

4. I’ll be at Chicago in early June to help Jon move out his studio apartment to a one bedroom. It will be one floor down in the same building he is in. Sharon will fly out later on to spend a few days adding a woman’s touch to the place.

5. Got the cd of Sugarland’s Twice the Speed of Life from the Pembroke library.

6. Really been enjoying listening to Brad Paisley’s new song Ticks and Lucinda Williams’ Are You Alright?, Learning to Live without You, and Change the Locks.

7. Following March Madness.

8. I would love to go to the the conference on Tolken at the University of Vermont next month.

9. Paying attention to the stories about the abysmal conditions in VA hospitals.

10. I need a new computer really bad. Jon’s coaching me, doing his best to keep me from getting an Apple

11. Readjusting to getting back to the gym regularly.  A good thing. I’ve been going but since the kidney stone surgery I haven’t been as fanatical. Getting back into the mindset.

12. Trying to decide how long I keep my 1995 Buick Park Ave before it starts giving me big time trouble. It’s been a great car. Bought it at 67,000 miles and now have 140,000. Not a moments trouble beyond normal maintenance.

13. Just got my taxes done. A good feeling.

14. I am helping lead this session of Divorce Care at church. Wow! What a privilege!

15. Time for Spring time work around the house. Can’t wait to open it up for the warmer weather.

12. Been listening to some great podcasts from Yale University. They are free and each week they post a new one. I can do free. I also love listening to Ira Glass’ American Life.

13. I’ve joined a Henri Nouwen book club at the nearby St. Joseph the Worker Roman Catholic Church. I use some of Nouwen’s stuff in one of my college classes.

14. I want to read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood since I spent some years in Kansas where the murders he describes took place. I rented the movie Infamous, the story of Capote’s obsession with the murders he details in the book.

The thing I miss most when I have been sick 0r Chronicles of Don’s Fifth Kidney Stone

So what am I doing up at 3:30 AM drinking a cup of coffee? Well, it’s the thing I miss most when I have been sick. And I’m gonna make up for lost cups. (They say you can’t make up for lost sleep, but when it comes to coffee the future is just a chance to make up for lost cups).

Yesterday was a time out for a kidney stone. I can never pass those darn things, and they have to go get ’em. But I knew what I was in for – this is my fifth stone over the years. And you had better believe I knew what pain medication I wanted – and lots of it. The medical staff were surprisingly open to keeping me high all day. Usually you have to kick and scream. Maybe I had that wild Jack Nicholson look in my eyes from The Shining. (By the way, I just saw The Departed. Wow – it’s a gotta see movie – Nicholson’s great – and if you aren’t from Boston, this is how its looks, folks). Maybe Sharon had a .357 under her coat pointed at the staff all day long – “don’t mess with that man,” I can hear her say. So once I got in and got my meds (narcotics, as the nurses called them – it made me feel like I was in a crime movie), it wasn’t a bad day at all. I probably had a better day than most of you, in fact. And for those of you who think I’m not being sensitive to people who are in recovery, I AM IN RECOVERY!!!

I suspected for about four weeks a stone was coming (something wicked this way comes!!). But unlike my other stones, this one didn’t hit me in a moment. It snuck up on me. It drew out the pain as long as it could before it was discovered. It was like a senior stone had coached it how to make Don the most miserable possible. Past stones rose from the dead and gave this stone their powers and their collective wisdom. (“Attention, all stones – we call this meeting to order. Our first order of business is help this little stone here hide long enough so that it can become a big stone.) (I have always preferred to call Christ the Rock rather than a stone – now you know why – another issue for my therapist).

But now it’s over – I mean out. Over and out. There is a little recovery time here, but at least I am back to my coffee. I made some observations while in the hospital that I will share with you soon. I will change the names to avoid lawsuits and to protect the innocent. Meanwhile I am sitting at my computer enjoying a nice cup of coffee and oxycodene – this is what I call a great cup of coffee. (The next order I place at Dunkin’ Donuts – “I’ll have it black with two sugars and a dash of oxycodene.”)

We’re backkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!

Just returned from the installation of my brother, Kenny, as the Senior Pastor of my home church, The Tabernacle Church of Norfolk. For the first time since my father’s death in 1996 all three of us brothers were together: Ronnie, my senior by two years, Kenny, my junior by 13 years, and me.

Charles Spurgeon, the great British preacher of the late 1800s, called the practice of ordination, “laying lazy hands on empty heads.” He was never ordained and never took to himself the title of Reverend. Being appointed by God was simply enough. Men cannot give to you the call, and if you are called, they can’t take it away.

But I found there was power in the moment of installation. When another person sees in your life evidence of a call of God, that is a moving thing, a memorable thing. When someone decides to believe in you, the energy of it can sustain a person through many a trial. Ann Landers long ago gave advice to a mother who felt her son was coming under the influence of friend  who was not the best of characters. Landers reminded her that the bad news is it takes only one person to turn your son the wrong way; the good news is that it takes only one person to turn your son the right way. People believing in people is a powerful thing.  6 1/2 billion people against you can be leveraged by just one person who believes in you. This is an amazing equation. I believe it is true. You don’t need everybody on your side. You need somebody on your side. Do you know who that is?

This is a moment to say thank you to those who have believed in me. You know who you are! This is a moment to remind you all to say to someone else, with a fixed gaze that makes makes them pay attention, “I believe in you.” There is incredible energy released in that moment, an atom-splitting moment that sets off a reaction that can last a person for a life time, Spurgeon notwithstanding.