Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I give up on acoustic amps . . .

Well, I made a decision today.  I am willing to accept the positive or negative consequences of my decision either way.

I am simply giving up on acoustic amps.

I've got a very good Fishman Loudbox acoustic amp.  It's for sale as of today.  Nothing wrong with it. I've used it for 3 years.  Carted it easily around with me to inside and outside gigs.


Well . . . I just can't get the sound I want dialed in.

What is the sound I want?

I want to hear the sound my guitar makes acoustically when I plug it in to an acoustic amplifier.

Trouble is . . . I can't get it to sound like my guitar, in fact I can't get any of my 6 string guitars to sound like they do when plugged in to an acoustic amp.  My Guild 12-string sounds fine . . . go figure.

To my untrained ear (emphasis on "untrained") I hear too many "effects."  However, I don't hear the sound my 6-strings make, which is the reason I got them in the first place.

So . . . I guess I am moving toward getting a portable PA system.  It looks like I am going to give an HK Lucas Nano 300 portable PA system a good long hard look.  Grapevine Guitar Works has a couple in stock, and I'm going to take my Taylor GS Custom and my Guild F-50R over to the shop and plug them in.  They are German engineered, very compact and easy to transport and set up.  And, to my delight, there is only a balance knob and a volume knob to adjust on the control panel.

Wow!  I can't begin to imagine set-up before a gig taking any more than 15 minutes.  And pretty much all I need to adjust during a gig is the volume or tone control on the guitar itself.


Why didn't I pay attention to this sooner?  Guess I secretly wanted to sound like Monte Montgomery.  Only problem is, I'm not Monte Montgomery.

Don't know the full cost yet, but somewhere around $600.  Take off what I can get for my Fishman on a trade or on Craig's List . . . maybe around $450 or less.

More info to come.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to all!!

Despite my recent / current cancer journey ... I come into this Christmas of 2012 with a great deal of warmth, love and appreciation for the season. I am blessed with loving family, friends and an ever increasing faith.

My singing voice grows stronger each day with the help of the Vocal-Ease exercises that Jim Newton is mentoring me through. My speaking voice gets a first major test this Sunday as I provide the sermon in the downtown campus sanctuary at 11:15 AM at FUMC-Grapevine.

What a blessing ... 2 Christmas celebrations today with daughters and their families. Here at home this morning with Maranda and Dustin, and this afternoon/evening with Meredith, Chad and Briana. And then home later this evening before ice forms on the streets and highways. A possible white Christmas for us in the D/FW Texas area. A little snow would be nice.

Right now just a lot of very needed rain and a lot of wind!

Merry Christmas to you and yours. Despite the horrific news of recent days ... Christmas proves that God is with us (Emmanuel). There is light in the darkness. God's presence is here with us, the true gift of Christmas that keeps on giving the whole year through."

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Monday, December 17, 2012

Doing pretty well . . .

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I'm doing pretty well.  I just completed my 3rd full week of work, etc., with no ill effects.  It seems my ability to pull off long days (my "normal" Thursday begins at 5:30 AM and I usually don't get home until after 9 PM) is still in question.  Long days require that I take a nap or a long break where I can rest up.  I have forgotten a time or two to pace myself during the day.  On those days, I usually fall asleep in my recliner before going to bed.

Alas, I have a patient family, and they are helping me along.  I love having them by my side.

Advent here at the church has been very special.  We've taken a very hard look at Christmas as a church this year.  The shooting in Connecticut this past Friday were heavy on our hearts yesterday as we came to worship on the 3rd Sunday of Advent to light the candle of joy.  But light it we did, because as Dr. Cindy Ryan put it . . . "we had to."  If we didn't, we would have surrendered to the darkness, and the testimony of that would have been that evil had won. 

It didn't.  It hasn't.  It won't!  Not this Christmas.

I've been asked by many people what a I want for Christmas.  My honest answer has been, "it doesn't matter because I'm not going to get what I want for Christmas."

I want to be free of cancer.  That's all I want for Christmas. 

However, we won't know about receiving the "all-clear" until after the 1st week in April.

I still plan to participate and celebrate fully in Christmas this year.  My two daughters and their husbands have been negotiating an "all-family-in-attendance" Christmas gathering, and we may get to actually pull it off the evening of  Christmas Day.  It seems very important that we have a family time.  These days, with adult children and adult work schedules, getting together for the holidays is not always that easy.  I am grateful for my kids working hard to make this year's family meal something special.

I believe I've told my wife about 5,000 times that I love her these past 4 months.  I guess Liz and I are the age where "for better or worse" meant just that, "for better or worse."  I understand better now how the family of someone with cancer are just as affected by so many emotions and feelings.  The outreach of cancer is vast.  My wife has been to every appointment with me, to my treatment, waited on me when I was too tired to get out of bed or my recliner, always with a smile and an "I love you!"

I am so blessed.

I will be preaching on December 30th at the Downtown Campus.  I will be sharing some of my cancer journey during the message, as we focus on the "The Gift That Keeps On Giving!"  I'm looking forward to it.

Holiday activities are picking up around here at the church. So, this may be my last blog for a week or so.  Thank you all for your prayers, support and encouragement.  In all honesty, this exercise of reporting about my life has not been very easy.  But the effort has been therapeutic in several ways that I wasn't expecting. 

All good.

God's grace still amazes me . . .  ><>

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Translating "Doctor talk' into more understandable "English" . . .

What a difference it makes when you have someone who can "translate" something into a language you can understand.

My oncology nurse called me this morning, after receiving a long list of questions I sent to her on Tuesday night by email. She shared that as she read my email, she realized that there had been a miscommunication ( and it truth, the miscommunication was a lot my fault.)  My emotions got pretty scrambled at the doctor’s office on Tuesday morning, and neither Liz or I correctly understood what my oncologist was attempting to communicate to us in “doctor language.”   As a result, I “heard” that I was having another treatment in April and I panicked a bit, and I “sort of / kind of” got mad at the doctor. 
Seems that when I get mad, I stop listening . . . something that is probably not news to those who know me well.
Seems that when I get mad . . . people (including doctors) often become afraid of me . . .
So . . . here is the translation . . .
In reality, I am not having a treatment in April.  Rather, it will be "determined" in April if I need another treatment and/or surgery.

As our nurse explains it . . . I am going back to the oncologists in April for a “re-staging” which involves 3 things:

- One or two injections of a medicine that will allow me to not have to stop taking my new meds (synthetic hormone), and to not have to do a full week long low-iodine fast

- Two days later I will orally take a very small radioactive iodine marker (no isolation period involved)

- Two days after that, I will have another scan on my neck.

The results of the scan, as well as the results from new blood work, will help to determine 3 more things: (We could know the answers to all this by the middle or end of April)

- If the “spot” (evidence of thyroid cancer in my upper neck/lymph node) is still there . . .  

- If another radioactive iodine ablation (a 3 week process including diet and isolation) is necessary to take care of it

- If surgery is required to remove the lymph node (which is actually the “worst case scenario” according to the nurse . . . one that I can very much live with.)

A result of another ablation or surgery will be that I will have several more scans over the course of the next few years.

The wait until April is to give my neck more time to heal, and to allow the first treatment some time to have full effect (apparently my recent treatment has a half-life, meaning it is still “theoretically” working).  The cancer I have (follicular carcinoma) is the very slow growing.  It has probably taken many years for that little spot in my upper neck to get to the size that it is.
So, I am thankful for an oncologist who has everything under control, even if I'm out of control.
I am thankful for my oncology nurse who was patient to respond to my questions with a phone call instead of an email . . . and as a result, I am informed and on-board as a participant in the plan.  I am much more at ease. 
It's a good plan, in fact.

God's grace still amazes me . . . . ><>



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Not what I hoped, but still some good news . . .

My visit yesterday morning to my oncologist’s office did not go as smoothly as I had hoped . . .  but I believe all is going to be good in the end.

The results of my recent full body scan showed that I do not have any metastatic disease (in other words, the thyroid cancer did not migrate anywhere else in my body).  That is very good news.

However . . . the scan, according to the oncologist, “lit up” a section in the upper left area of my neck, indicating there “may be something” in the lymph node region.  He wants to address this “cautiously,” meaning I will receive another radioactive iodine treatment (smaller dose) during the 1st or 2nd week of April 2013.  I will receive more info on April 2nd.   I will probably be out for several days related to all this.

The take-a-ways from this are a bit mixed but mostly good.
The bad take-a-ways . . .
-I will not get what I really wanted for Christmas . . . the "all clear" report.
-Another treatment, meaning the process that I hoped would last no longer than 6 months will probably now take 10 months to a year from first detection of the lump in my neck to the time I get an "all clear" report.
-More dealing with my "not being in control" (which I find quite frustrating).
-Having to re-evaluate some future things I wanted to do, which may have to delayed a year.  No big deal, except I made some promises . . . but everyone involved will understand
The good take-a-ways . . .
-I am feeling much, much better physically. 
-I am able to work full-time, and that feels really good.  It's good to walk into Advent/Christmas carrying my fair share of the pastoral load.
-The thyroid cancer did not move to other parts of my body.
-There is no confirmation that what the scan revealed is cancer . . . but why not be agressive (what my oncologist calls "being cautious."  I prefer aggressive . . . like "kill the damn thing now!!!"
-This is not a fatal disease . . . it's just going to be over when it's over.
I think in the end . . . the good take-a-ways win!!!!
God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, December 10, 2012

Body scan results tomorrow morning ...

Tomorrow morning, Tuesday December 11th ... 3 months since my ENT called to tell me that I had thyroid cancer, I will meet with my oncologist to get the report from my recent full body thyroid cancer scan.

I am a bit nervous and apprehensive ... naturally so ... however, based on how I have felt the past 2 weeks, I am expecting something positive.

The entire process beginning with my experiencing regular fatigue in my voice and noticing a lump in my throat to the present time has has taken about 6 months.  Half-a-year dealing with cancer. Not as much as most people with cancer that I provided pastoral care to over the years, but every journey is different I guess.  The last 2 weeks are the first I've worked a regular schedule since the last week of August.  That's a long time to me.  In my own mind, I've not accomplished much In 2012, and I'm pretty much calling this year a wash.  I've have managed to accomplish a few personal and professional goals I set.  At the same time, a good number of goals were simply "tabled" for the time being.  Nothing major, but none-the-less, some things I needed and wanted to check off my list.  There are always other days and new lists!

The level of fatigue after surgery until I could take the treatment was more than I anticipated or was advised to expect.  Some days went well. Most ended early. The half-days I did manage to be in the office were few and far between. I felt "out-of-the-loop" after a while in addition to feeling like I was in the way of everybody else.  I am forever indebted to our church staff as each, without fail, advised me to focus on getting well.  My thanks also to everyone in the church for cards, calls and prayers.

Tomorrow I get the word.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

A Change is Gonna Come . . .

One day I hope to bring same intensity and heart to any song I sing as Grandpa Elliot and Clarence Bekker of the "Playing for Change Band" bring to the song "A Change is Gonna Come."

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Help Make This World a Better Place . . .

The new "Playing for Change" music video is out!   A great message.  A call to to "arms" in fact . . . a call for us to join up and connect by our arms to sing a loud enough song that we can all work for change.  We can all work together to make this world a better place.

Check out and click on episode #72.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Traynor amp . . .

Since accepting delivery of my Taylor T-5 last month,  I asked Sean Simon at Grapevine Guitar Works to look for a small electric guitar tube amp that I could use to play it through . . . something easy to operate, as I only put it through a tuner pedal.  I'm  really new to electric guitar playing, and wanted to keep things really simple.  Mostly because I don't like carrying a lot of equipment around.

Sean put me onto a Traynor Custom Valve YCV20WR that belonged to our late friend, guitar player and church member, Mike Pueppke.  Mike was a wonderful young man who finally succumbed to cancer last year after a long and courageous battle. I miss him daily still.  He was a good friend

I used to go to the hospital and visit Mike.  I did this many times over the years.  Mike was super intelligent, was working on his doctorate in English Lit . . . he could very well have become a college or university president . . . of that I have no doubt.  He was also a pretty decent lead rock-n-roll guitarist.  He had a beautiful Gibson Les Paul.  When I visited Mike, all we talked about was guitars.  It didn't matter to him that I was his pastor.  He just wanted someone, anyone, to visit him and talk about guitars so he could temporarily "leave" cancer for a while.  Quite frankly, I only to happy to oblige.

His hospital stays were often for months at a time.  We talked about guitars a lot during those times.  When we met for lunch at Old West Cafe in Grapevine or in Euless, we also talked about guitars. When I preached at his memorial service, I mentioned our conversations.  Several people approached me afterwards and told me that Mike had helped them get their guitars.

After Mike's death, his family asked Sean to help sell some of Mike's guitars and amps.  Mike was an eBay expert, and bought and sold guitars, bass guitars and amps for several years.  And he loved Traynor amps.  Sean thought I might like Mike's personal Traynor amp because it was small, used, in great shape, easy to carry, sounded great, but mostly that I would appreciate the connection to Mike.

Sean was right!  He usually is.  Sean is really a great guy.

Mike's YCV 20 is a freak!  I am pretty sure he replaced the tubes with J&J's . . . and the 15 watt Celestone speaker was replaced with a 30 watt Hellatone.  One would think it would be crunchy, but it's not.  It is really smooth.  Could be the Taylor T-5.  I think it's the amp.

Now to be completely honest . . . I really don't know squat about electric guitars or electric guitar amps.  However, this amp is a simple two channel amp, and it sounds great with my T-5 plugged in.  With my little Strat plugged in . . . oh my word!!!!   It amazes me the sounds you can get without running the guitar through a pedal board and just straight into the amp.  Amazing.

Mike had stuck an orange folder into the back of the amp with all his notes about what settings he used for different guitars and for different songs.  I'm looking at that folder right now.  I'm thinking of Mike, and his beautiful and brilliant wife Brittni and their son, who will grow up with very dim memories of his father.  It's still a sad story, and there is a little bit of grief still for me personally.  But there is a connection I will have forever with Mike.

First, he was my friend, who always wanted to get together to play electric guitar.  I was never able to schedule doing that with him.

But I'm finally doing it now, by playing my T-5 through Mike's amp.

I miss you, Mike!  Love ya, man!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Resources for Creative people . . .

Some great websites with great products for creative minded people . . . these are really good resources for artists, musicians, authors . . . and others who find it easier to manage their personal and professional lives when they see all aspects of their lives as individual projects. 

I have found these resources to be a great help to me.

Action Method
Creatives Outfitter
The 99%

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Saturday, December 1, 2012