Friday, November 30, 2012

I'm back ....

Last night I had the special privilege and honor of providing the musical program for "The Well" event at FUMC-Grapevine. "The Well" is a bi-monthly gathering of women for fellowship, a great meal, followed by programs from noted women's authors and speakers.

Ann Hailey had asked me if I could provide a musical program of Christmas carols for the event. I initially planned to decline. I had not accepted any invitation to sing since my 2nd throat surgery in early October. Between a fluctuating energy level and vocal problems, I just hadn't felt comfortable singing in public in front of an audience. After thinking and considering the invitation for a couple of hours, I felt compelled to accept. i replied back to Ann and suggested a Christmas Carol sing-a-long to help compensate for my voice not being at full strength. Ann thought it was a great idea, and we confirmed I would be there.

This week was a good week energy wise. I worked a good full-time week with no problems. However, my Thursdays usually start at 5:30 AM and usually end with my getting home at 9 PM, so I was a little worried about my energy level and my voice. Yesterday, after taking an hour break away from the office, I started rehearsing about 2 hours before the event, working on different keys for each song until I found my comfort zone. I used my new Taylor T-5 through the PA, and it worked just great. I am getting more and more pleased with that guitar every time I play it.

I took another break as dinner was served, and went up to my office to finish sipping through a Diet Sprite from Sonic, and to just relax for a bit. Perhaps I was also praying, I don't remember. I got up to head downstairs to tune up, and I had this calm sense of peace that it would all be OK. Many of the ladies attending know me or about me, so it wasn't a hostile crowd.

After Ann's very precious introduction, I started into a little Jamaican rhythm version of "Silver Bells" with the ladies joining me on the chorus. Then a slow version (is there any other way?) of "White Christmas." The 3rd song was a long time personal favorite, "Do You Hear What I Hear." Half-way through, I felt a warm wave of peace and assurance ... I almost started crying, but kept singing. I knew right then, and finally accepted for myself, that I was going to be OK, that the worry of the past 3 months of dealing with thyroid cancer and voice issues was coming to an end.

Vocally, I was doing pretty well through each song. It felt like I was getting stronger with each song. I was projecting with no strain, and controlling my voice with little effort or thought. In other words, I was getting comfortable. My throat felt relaxed and I was enjoying myself.

The final song was "Mary Did You Know," my favorite contemporary Christmas song. And, to quote a friend, " I just let it rip." Afterwards, as I thanked the ladies for their applause and participation, I knew and accepted that my voice was going to be ok. In fact, it may even be a little better!!! Given time and some re-training, I really believe I'm going to have a better voice.

It was good then, and is good today to feel at peace about it all!

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

Joe Walsh . . .

If I have a favorite electric guitar player, it's Joe Walsh.

During my period of isolation last week, I watched an abnormal amount of television.  Granted, normal for me is NO television at all . . . seriously, I just don't watch TV anymore.

However, I watched my Eagles DVD (live concert in Australia)  and also found a Netflix movie called the "Strat Pack" which was a tribute concert in England in memory of Leo Fender.  Joe Walsh had the longest set on the movie, and he was just fantastic. 

This past month, Joe was Daryl Hall's guest on the most recent Live from Daryl's House internet program.  Check out www.lfdh.com.  He and Daryl do a version of Joe's "Funk #49/50" on the show which was just plan awesome.

What a program!!!!  Joe looks as broad shouldered and healthy as I have ever seen him.  His new album, his first in 20 years, is out and its called "Analog Man."  Joe has been sober for 18 years now, and shared that it took him that long to re-learn how to write music again in a sober state of mind.

Are there more skilled electric guitar players than Joe?  Probably.  But Joe Walsh is my favorite electric guitar player.

Can I play like him?

Are you kidding? In my dreams maybe . . . heck, I can't even play scales!

But I do so love to watch Joe play, and hopefully in the near future I will get to attend a concert.

I think he is getting ready to do some of his best stuff.  

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Update: Out and about . . .

My isolations and restrictions following radioactive iodine ablation are over.  I'm trying to get back in the swing of things.  However, my body is telling me I am going to have to slowly work back up to full speed. 

Yesterday I went by the guitar store and to my office at the church.  I didn't stay long.  I was tired, and had a dizzy spell.  Today I arrived at the church early . . . but my concentration just isn't up to the task.  So, after catching up on my daily devotions, I am going to head over to Sonic for a grilled chicken sandwhich and then leisurely run a few errands before heading back home. 

I so want to be ready to take on a full schedule . . . but 2 surgeries and 2 months of reduced activity (sitting in my recliner recovering) have taken their toll on my stamina and energy level.  Apparently I am no far enough along the hormone replacement process for it to have made the "big" difference others have told me to expect.  

Liz and I will be in worship this Sunday, and then Monday morning (11/26), I'll start my first full week back and see how much I can do.  I am thankful for this great church in their allowing me the time I have needed to get well.  I love this place a lot . . . especially the people.  I think I will start drawing energy again from working with the staff again, and being with all the people.  I have a lot of catching up to do pastoral care wise.  A lot of that can be done with phone calls and emails.  A lot can be done in face-to-face visits as well. 

Plus, it's time to get ready for Advent!!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Give thanks out of a grateful heart!

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

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Update: I can taste again!

Yay! The old taste buds are working again!

The swelling in my neck, which I am pretty sure is due to swollen salivary glands, is reducing. Other than my neck still feeling stiff, I think I'm good to go.

3 pm today ended a long list of 5-day restrictions. I can be near loved ones and others. I can hug but can't kiss (a 7 day restriction ... Awwwwwww!) I can hold my cat again, which may not be very soon because he apparently believes that I've given him up for Lent or some other human celebration. I'll work on him some. He'll come around.

Tomorrow I will spend a good part of the day cleaning and washing clothes, sheets, blanket, mattress pad, towels, bagging up "Rick's" trash, cleaning and disinfecting the bathroom (twice) and wash the shower curtains. I have to throw away my toothbrush, and little travel toiletries I've been using. Also have to throw away my old CPAP mask and start using a new one.

I am glad that I did not have any sweating side-effect episodes, in that radiation is more easily transferred or causes contamination through sweat. My trusty recliner gets a good wipe down, but no one else can sit in it for the week. Liz can move back into our bedroom on Tuesday (end of a short list of 7-day restrictions ... Yay!!)

I hope to be at the church on Tuesday and Wednesday of this coming week. Liz and I will attend wirship services on Sunday, and I will be "officially" back on the 26th. To say that I have cabin fever is an understatement for sure!

I have a body scan on the 27th, and meet with my oncologist 2 weeks later. At that time I'll know if I am done, or if we start with plan B.

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

Friday, November 16, 2012

Update: Some side effects continue

Two days now with a very tender and sore neck, including some swelling. The very bad fatigue of Wednesday evening and yesterday has let up. Taste buds are still a bit off; however, the metallic taste is gone. I have not yet experienced any kind of dry mouth, which I had been told to expect.

I can resume some normal activities on Monday, and can be back in public for sure on Tuesday, and glad for that as the Reigelman's are coming through town and we really want to see them.

Yesterday was just one of those rare "mostly bad days." I don't have many bad days, because I believe that a bad day is more about my deciding it's a bad day, rather than trying to identify something redeemable. I believe there is something redeemable about every single day, in every single relationship, in every single person. I decided, a long time ago, to live life this way. Doing so has served me well for a long time. It's been an act of faith.

Yesterday ... was pretty bad. Painful physically and emotionally. Not wanting to get out of bed because you honestly don't feel like it ... can be frustrating for some. Today is off to a better start despite some lingering side effects from treatment. In the end, this will all pale when compared to the cancer journeys some of you have, and are facing. I promise this to all of you, should you seek me out for pastoral care ... I will have a more empathetic ear to give to you as a result of what I experienced.

I hope that will do us all some good.

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Live from Daryl's House new episode just posted ...

Joe Walsh is Daryl Hall's guest this month.

Watching this brought a decent ending to what was, quite frankly, a horrible day. But redeemable none-the-less ... Because of some wonderful music. I'll write more a out how I feel about bad days tomorrow.

LFDH is my favorite internet web show. Joe looked great, and played even better.

www.lfdh.com

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

Update: it must be side-effects day

Interesting ... Most of the side-effects I was told that "some" people get after radioactive iodine ablation ... Have hit today.

Ugh!

It's going to be a day spent in bed.

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Update: Phase 3.1

I'm home! A completely un-eventfull treatment ... Swallow a pill that 3 people were involved in giving to me.

I was surprised by the peace I had during the entire process. Apparently, I had been the only patient so far in the day that was either very worried/emotional. My response when asked how I was doing was "Go Team!" My nurse said, "you are to be just fine."

My visual for all this is to imagine any remaining cancer cells or thyroid tissue will just soak up the "I-131" radioactive iodine ... then to scream "Raid!" ... and then blow up.

I think I just dated myself again.

Doing ok!

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

Update: Phase #3 begins today

Here in a little bit, I will head toward my radioactive iodine ablation at my oncologist's office. After the treatment, provided there are no side effects, I head back home for a 1 week period of isolation as the Radioactive Rev. Rick!!

I admit I am a little nervous, not about swallowing a radioactive pill, but about my being able to stay out of everyone's way here at the house. However, Liz has it all planned and she is the best project manager I know and trust!

My family is being so sweet to me. My church has gifted me with additional time off so I can focus on getting better. Folks from the church have called to let Liz know when they are available to run errands or do yard work. Long distance friends are calling or emailing with words of encouragement.

I am overwhelmed by love and by God's grace.

That, in part, is why I always end each blog entry, no matter the topic, with my favorite line from my favorite Phillips-Craig&Dean song ...

God's love "still amazes me ..." ><>

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ain't she sweet!

My Taylor T-5 custom electric guitar arrived this past Wednesday. It has a dark, rich stripped sinker redwood top, with mahogany back and neck. A lot darker than the sinker redwood top on my Taylor GS, which is a very rich reddish orange with hardly any stripping at all. Both are simply magnificent in their own unique way.

Oh, oh, oh, oh ...... I am a fan of the sound a redwood topped guitar makes. I thought cedar was a warm sounding wood, and it is. But redwood, to my ear, is warm ... but with more volume than cedar, but not the brightness of spruce. A great sound for the the performer like me, who usually sings solo, or in a duet or trio.

Sinker redwood really touches something in my heart and soul.

My thanks to Sean Simon at Grapevine Guitar Works and J.R. Robison of Taylor Guitars for getting this truly one-of-a-kind guitar created. This guitar is one that I'm going to very much "enjoy" paying for. It's been a needed bright spot during this medical journey I've been on. I've already managed to play it over 6 hours in just the past few days. I'll introduce it publicly during VBS at the church this June, provided my voice has recovered enough to handle daily singing by then.

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Some after election thoughts ...

A few after election thoughts this morning ...

Cheering your candidates victory, or grieving their loss may make you happy or sad for the moment ... in the end it all doesn't matter.

What matters is this .... for real constructive change to happen for everyone's benefit, you have to raise your individual and personal level of involvement in the process to doing something more than just casting your vote and then sitting back hoping the winner will do what you want them to.

Get involved yourself!

Start in your neighborhood or local community. Volunteer where ever there is a need. Commit to serving on a civic or community committee, or help build a playground, or feed and clothe the poor. Pick up the trash along a section of road. Drive around and really look at the needs in the world you live in. Take your children with you because they have eyes that see things more honestly and clearly than adults do.

Purposely work with people who are "different" than you in hopes of widening your "compassion vision". Or, if so called or inclined, run for public office yourself.

Expand you understanding by engaging in dialogue with "the other guys," which may be difficult at first because you will have to develop the greatest of of adult skills ... listening! You might find you have more common ground than you think. At the least, what may come out it is your discovering something you have a true core-value-connected passion for helping with.

Despite all the reasons listed on their resumes and bio's, candidates usually enter into politics for basically one of two reasons ... They truly want to help make things better, or they want to be in power. (Perhaps this applies to many other fields of endeavor as well??) I wonder if many who are celebrating or grieving the election results today are doing so because of a perceived gain or loss of power? From my experience, I believe that the ones running for office because they truly want to make things better, whether they win or lose, are already rolling up their sleeves this morning and going to work to make good things happen.

After you take the time you need to celebrate or grieve ... consider making the effort to take the time to ponder some way you can be involved in the process beyond just voting.

It's true, positive change for the benefit of many first begins in our own lives.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Yep, I must be a cat bed...

A splitting headache and flu like symptoms (related to an ever increasing level of fatigue) have me at home again today. I'm just about ready to call this week a wash.

I've done a lite of thinking in all the time off I've had recently.

And right there in front of me ... I discovered that I have truly missed my calling!

I am, in reality, a king-sized cat bed!

I wish I could believe they both were acting out of sympathy to how I feel, but then I know better.

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

Monday, November 5, 2012

Update: Fatigue / the home stretch ...

Thanks again for all the cards and calls. I am overwhelmed.

Well, it's low-iodine diet week (finally), and as promised, the fatigue is quickly getting worse ... Lasting longer and feeling much more draining. I am now considering taking most of this week off, and have cancelled most of my appointments. I sure hope I can make the Gala this coming Saturday, but if I can't go, I can't go. My mom is coming down for a visit this weekend, and I'm looking forward to that.

And ... It seems because of my sitting in my recliner so much this past month, that one of our cats believes I am his new custom cat bed!! I bet he stayed in my lap for 4 hours. The little guy recently had de-claw surgery, and was probably a bit woozy.

I know what that is like. Anyway, he seemed comfortable and was just so dang cute!

Our diet plan for the week is very doable, really not much different from my regular diet, except for no salt or commercially prepared foods. No eating out this week. All homemade! Liz is good at that.

Next Tuesday, Nov. 13, is my ablation. A week at home in "radioactive isolation" (meaning camped out in my study) begins that afternoon. Hormone therapy (Yay!) starts the next day. I am grateful for my family for working out their schedules, etc., as I have to have a dedicated bathroom for my own use during the week. Love'em all so much!

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