Sunday, January 30, 2011

One of Life's Firsts

Warning!  What you're about to read might alter the image that you have of me, but allow me to explain.  For a little over 60 years on the planet I've never owned a firearm.  And thank God we've never needed one for home defense although there was one time early in our marriage when we might have come close.  Our oldest daughter was just an infant.  There was a knock on our door one night. When I opened the door the strange looking guy seemed surprised. After a couple of seconds of a blank stare he asked, "Is Mike here?" To which I replied, "Yes I'm right here."  Another long blank stare and saying nothing he did an about face and walked into the darkness.  I followed him outside asking what he wanted, which in hindsight wasn't a good move, but he kept walking and never turned around.  I guess he picked the wrong name out of the blue.  That experience would go on to alter the way I answer the door at night.

A few years ago a man and woman posing as husband and wife and pretending to be stranded knocked on the door of a nice older couple across the street and down a few houses.  They pulled a gun and tied up the man while the lady took the wife to the ATM to make a withdrawal.  Fortunately no one was hurt and a few days later the news came out that it was an inside job.  A few weeks earlier these folks had hired a contractor who told someone about the potential for a heist at their house.  This event shook people up in our neighborhood and was a reality check that this can "really happen here".  I felt the strongest urge ever to protect my family and came real close to buying a handgun.  What stopped me was Amber's strong desire to not have a gun in the house.

Through the years while we lived in California every once-and-awhile I would have the urge to get a .22 rifle to go plinking with other guys.  But I've always respected Amber's desire to not own a gun and just put that urge out of mind.

As I've mentioned before our son is a policeman.  For the past four years I've watched his transformation in many areas including his growing interest in firearms.  Recently I expressed my desire to go shooting sometime with him and our oldest grandson.  I was pleasantly surprised that Amber finally relented to me getting a handgun if it meant that the three of us could develop this interest together.  I don't mean to make this sound like Amber rules the roost but a person's stance on this subject, like a few others, is rooted deep within so I haven't wanted to go to the mat and argue my position.

Friday I made the plunge and bought a handgun.  (Wow, that was new statement!)  I've been researching it for a few weeks and in fact struggling a bit with how it'll all pan out.  As many of you know who read this blog I'm a volunteer chaplain at the county jail.  Let me pose just a couple of questions that I've been pondering.  Does owning a gun for protection mean that I'm not trusting God?  Is it okay to tell someone about the love of Christ while carrying a concealed weapon? The answers that I've found to these two points deserve at least a full post on their own but I won't go into it now.  Maybe you have some thoughts on these questions and I'd really like to hear them.

It's an unpredictable world with some people who mean harm to others.  I don't think that statement means that I'm paranoid because I do fully trust in God.  But because I work at the jail I'm more aware than most about the reality of what goes on around us.  Everyday all of the news sources bear witness to the fallen world around us.

Years ago I was in the National Guard.  We were trained on all sorts of firearms because back in the day the National Guard was just that - a national guard.  I enjoyed it when we would camp out at Camp Pendelton Marine Base and have our annual weapons training.  So firearms aren't new to me but like motorcycling there are do's and don'ts and I plan to restart the learning curve.  I'm looking forward to our son teaching our grandson and me.

Yesterday I made my first purchase of ammunition.  (Wow, that's another first.)  Bi-mart has it on sale.  I'm such a newbie I just turn myself over to the people who know what they're doing.  Isn't that the way it was when we first began riding?  You have to trust and learn from the experienced people.

I know some of you might find this subject scary and upsetting.  Recently we had the tragic event in Tucson, Arizona where six people lost their lives and nineteen were injured including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords when a gunman opened fire at a shopping center gathering.  Amber and I were watching NBC's Dateline the following evening.  They interviewed a guy who was nearby and carrying a pistol.  He got to the scene after the gunman was wrestled to the ground and felt bad that he didn't arrived earlier and maybe prevented some of the devastation.  Amber said it's scary to think there are people walking around us with guns.  I said no that's comforting to know that there are people familiar with guns who are available to help protect us. Even police agencies will tell you they can't be everywhere.

A couple of years ago an Iran veteran attending an Oregon University was expelled when it was discovered that he had a handgun on campus.  He was a Marine veteran with a concealed permit trained in the use of weapons and he got verbally scourged and expelled.  My feeling is this is the guy you want on campus and in fact he should have gotten a break on his tuition to help compensate him for his experience and availability.

Well, I thought I would "let the cat out of the bag" and write on this subject since most likely there will be a sprinkling of future posts on this point.  Our oldest grandson is 14 and has plans to go into the Army after high school.  He really looks up to our son so who knows, he might want to go into police work.

Stay safe.

God's speed.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Foggy Traveling

Earlier tonight I goofed and did a post to this blog when I meant to post to my other one.  Shoot... I thought I could make it through the year without making a mistake.  So I'm doing a little post to keep from having the mistaken post show up on blog lists.

I love to capture things engulfed in fog.  Fog is like an extra filter and it does some nice things with the available light.  Early Wednesday morning I drove to Eugene to work.  The temperature was in the mid 30's (F) which kept me off the bike.  Of course it warmed up to the low 50's during the day but I wimped out on the 90 minute morning ride in the cold.

Of course driving allowed me to click some photos of what I normally see on the ride but without the risk.

I like the two prominent colors of early morning highway travel, red and white, accentuated here by the fog.  They remind me of the positive and neutral wires in electricity.  A hot wire and a neutral wire.  An open wire and a return wire.  Okay before you think I was hallucinating or in some groggy early morning state, I was just enjoying what the fog was doing with the light. 

It also reminded me of traveling on vacations with my parents when I was a child.  I would peak over the front seat and see the red and white flow. The fog causes some tunnel vision and brings emphasis to the colorful movements.

I hope your highways are fog-free and remember... stay on the red side.

God's speed.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rusty Rotors

This morning was a beautiful sunny morning in an almost constant overcast Northwest.  The big yellow ball in the sky was a welcomed old friend. Not riding since last Saturday gave me a strong hankering to ride today.

Our oldest grandson had a basketball game this morning.  Everyone piled into our 4Runner with Amber at the helm which allowed me to take the Beemer.  As I was putting my gear on I noticed rust on the rotors - a telltale sign of stagnate steel.  A bothersome discovery that put my lack of riding lately in perspective.
Our grandson's team hasn't won a game yet this season.  It's not because of a lack of trying or not practicing hard, they've just been playing teams that are better.  Nope, there's no rust on his team.

When I decided on the title of this quick post it made me wonder if there's actually someone with the name Rusty Rotors.  I know, that's kind of a strange thought but believe it or not there was a guy at my junior high school named Russell Sprouts.

May your rotors not gather any rust.  Go forth rust free.

God's speed.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Three Hurdles

On Thursday January 6th I sat alone in a basement room of the Nuclear Radiology Department at Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital. I was waiting to have the radio active solution injected into my head and the thought came to me what others have thought as they were about to go through the same process. I noticed the manufacturer's name on the nuclear camera next to me. It's an unusual name - Picker. The last name of one of my best friends.

This day was our son's 30th birthday. He's our youngest and the father of two. He's beginning his career as a policeman and he and our daughter-in-law are saving for a house. Amber and I are thankful for our family.

I've had surgery on both knees as a result of running injuries but all three of those times I didn't have the peace that I felt on this morning. It wasn't a peace that was conjured up either, but a conviction that whatever was going to happen that day everything would eventually work out for good. This comes from my faith that God has every detail of our lives in His loving hands.

This morning was to be the first of three hurdles that I felt I had to cross. Within an hour the radio active liquid would make its way to a lymph node which would be determined as the sentinel node.  Later in surgery the node would be removed for biopsy to test if cancer cells are present.  If the cancer had spread then this one would have the evidence first in the chain of the nodes that follow. There was a strong chance that the solution would make its way to the left perotid gland located where the upper and lower jaws meet.  This would be more risky as facial nerves run through the middle of this gland.  These nerves would have to be disrupted to extract the lymph node so partial facial paralysis would be a possibility.
I grew up in Southern California's LA suburb San Fernando Valley.  The 60's was a turbulent decade but one of the best for fun, sun, and rock n roll.  I was the drummer in a band that played a lot of Rolling Stones, Beatles, and other songs from bands of the day.  I was both a surfer wannabe and a hippie wannabe.  The hippie part came from being in the band and having a handlebar mustache. The surfer part came from body surfing at Malibu and Zuma beaches and having a 1963 VW Bus.  I guess I've always had a German vehicle. It's the engineering. I sure wish I still had that bus!
This was my Great Aunt May and me circa 1969.  I had been washing the bus and she came out to chat as she usually did. In this photo she was in her early 90's.  She was about 5 feet tall, a talkative bundle of energy and always had a positive outlook.  Maybe that's why she lived well into her 90's.

Growing up in SoCal I had my share of sun exposure and even got scorched a handful of times.  Five years ago I had a spot of skin cancer appear on my left temple.  It wasn't the type that spreads so I had it removed with mohs surgery and that was that.  The doctor highly suggested that I wear sun blocker which I did for a month or two then stopped.  I shouldn't have stopped.
Sometime last spring a mole appeared almost overnight.  It was just above my forehead and a little left of center.  I remember thinking, "Oh well, I guess this is another side effect of growing older."  Every so often I would Google melanoma but the mole didn't fall into any of the descriptions I found.

The early part of November at the urging of Amber and one of our daughters I made an appointment with a dermatologist.  He took a biopsy.  In the late afternoon on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving the doctor called to say it was melanoma. And it was deep enough to be concerned about it spreading.  What stood out from that conversation was when he said, "Melanoma is not the death sentence it use to be."  Everything else sounded ominous. Those of you who have had a cancer diagnosis know what the thought process is like.
I went in the next morning to have a full body screening. One more suspicious mole was on the side of my right calf. The doctor sliced it off and we waited another 5 days to find it wasn't melanoma.  That was a relief.

The first hurdle was crossed successfully the morning of the surgery when the radio active material made its way to a lymph node behind my left ear.  I was grateful it didn't go to the perotid gland and ready to get on with the surgery.  Amber and I would wait another three hours before I was taken into surgery.  The surgery lasted about two hours.  The second hurdle was crossed. 

When I woke up in recovery two nurses were having a friendly argument over whether the Oregon Ducks or the Auburn Tigers would win the national championship.  It's funny how during surgery time doesn't pass like it does when sleeping. There is no concept of time.
The afternoon before surgery I had an appointment with the doctor. After that they directed me to my pre-surgery physical in the medical building at the bottom end of the Portland Area Tram.  It was a nice drizzly beautiful ride.
It's interesting how in the midst of our troubles life still goes on around us.  Sometimes it seems like it should stop.  Once the diagnosis had settled in I found it to be humbling.  All the areas of my life that were about me were diminished.  The important things in life were separated from the non-important. I also lost the urge to ride. Part of that was due to the cold weather we were having and partly because I just didn't have the desire to ride. The other factor was I didn't want to risk getting sick and postponing the surgery. Eradicating the cancer was my overwhelming goal. 

This last Monday afternoon the surgeon called with the biopsy results. The sentinel lymph node taken from behind my ear was negative for melanoma. The cancer had not spread. It took a little while for that to settle in. I'm grateful that God has spared me from this cancer. The third hurdle was crossed.

I'm not one for long posts. Some might wonder why all this talk about lymph nodes and glands over an episode of skin cancer.  Melanoma is serious but like most cancer it's preventable.  I wanted to go through the development of this because our sport/hobby of motorcycling takes us outside and although we're covered head to toe with riding equipment, at some point we're taking in sun exposure. This is meant to show the consequences of not being diligent about sun protection. I wasn't careful, but wearing a hat and using sun blocker are now part of my daily routine.

I rode yesterday for the first time in almost a month.  I worked at the jail in the afternoon and came home a long route that was new to me.  What a nice time of being back with machine, camera, and beautiful scenery.  I rode today too and the old feeling is back.  Lord willing I'll be putting the miles on again.

I hope the weather allows you to ride these January days.

God's speed.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Life's Unexpected Events

Sea foam is always changing.  It's always growing as well as receding.  It's a result of agitation of the elements in the seawater.  Interesting how that works.  When life throws a curve I find that I can either learn from it and grow or give in to the fear and worry and turn inward and recede.  You can probably identify with those choices.

I had surgery last Thursday for one of life's unexpected events.  I'll have more details to follow.  I haven't ridden in a few weeks and I can't ride for a few more days.  Besides, I want to wait to post until after I can once again experience the exhilaration of riding.

God's speed.