Sunday, October 1, 2017

Introducing Steve 2.0...

REACH Air Ambulance
The REACH Air Ambulance pilot shared, "I remember that day really well, because it was so remarkable. We weren't flying much in December, because the cloud ceiling was so low. We weren't flying that day at all. But, the call came in for you, and as soon as I hung up, the cloud ceiling lifted. Then, when we got up to OHSU, it was so windy up on the hill, that I couldn't land."

He continued, "I realized we were going to have to take you across town to Providence, and come back to OHSU in an ambulance. I remember thinking that this wouldn't be good for you because of all the traffic and the time of day. As soon as I decided to make one more landing attempt, the wind stopped and I could land. It was remarkable."

Shift ahead to August 4, 2017, sitting in an exam room at the OHSU Neurology Office in the Center for Health and Healing.

Dr. Lui came bursting in to report on the results of my brain angiogram the day before, "Everything is excellent! It's gone!"

"What do yo mean?" I asked.

"I mean it's gone!" he replied.

I didn't understand, "But what do you MEAN?"

He finally got through to me, "I mean the aneurysm is gone and you're fine! Everything is excellent!"

"But what about the appointments I have scheduled with the neurologist in Corvallis?" I asked.

"Cancel them. You don't need them. You're fine."


Introducing Steve 2.0...

In the Eagle Cap Wilderness/July 2017

This is Steve Bittner 2.0. I have to admit, and I think the people around me will agree, that version 2.0 is an upgrade. The first version wasn't bad, but the second version has had some of the bugs worked out, and is a much better version. 

The two stories above are two chapters in the Brain Adventure of 2016-2017. If you read the two previous posts from January and February, you will read parts of the story of how I went to the edge, returned, and have continued to live and enjoy life, thanks to the God of Heaven. 

I am told by the medical community that most people who suffer a ruptured brain aneurysm don't survive to even make it to the hospital, and if they do survive, there is usually cognitive and/or physical impairment. I'm fine. 

The road back from the edge hasn't been without its bumps and twists and turns, and I was pretty crazy for the first two weeks of my recovery (My wife may say longer!), but I have to say that God has been so merciful to me and I am so grateful.

I am a better person having gone through this experience. I would never wish it on anyone, but I do now understand a bit more when someone goes through difficulty and they say they would do it again. I used to think they were just spouting off some trite, sanctimonious comments about how enlightened they now are.

Now I get it. Maybe. At least a little bit.

Having come so close to the edge has changed me in profound ways. I see people differently. I am less judgmental. Simple things are more wonderful. Going to sleep in peace is a joy. Waking up is an even greater joy. I feel so privileged to be able to do what I do each day. Morning hikes have become my sanctuary. I have lost nearly 50 pounds. My family is more precious to me.

I don't know why I was spared. I don't know why the Father rescued me. I do know that I am doing all I can to live every day the best way possible, to share His kindness wherever I am, to enjoy being in His presence and in the presence of friends, coworkers, and family.

So, here's to the next chapter and my 60th year! After August 4, 2017, and the news I received that day, I felt like I could formally introduce Steve 2.0. So, here I am! If I haven't seen you since the start of the Brain Adventure I look forward to seeing you again!

Love life.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Returning...

How does one communicate what it is like to slowly and steadily return to the daily rhythms of life after coming perilously close to leaving this world? I don't really know, but I am going to give it my best shot. 

This will surely differ from the accounts of other people who have had such experiences and I cannot compare my experience to theirs; I will make no value judgements on the experience of others and if you have graciously been given a second chance at life, I would also ask that you make no judgement on this description of my journey. 

How could our experiences ever be the same? The culmination of our life's paths results in a uniquely individual tapestry that could never be the same. One may notice colors or patterns that are similar, but they will never be identical.

In the video below and to the right, my son Scott, is playing a song that he created while I was a patient at Oregon Health Sciences University in mid-December recovering from a burst aneurysm in the right hemisphere of my brain. It reflects his feelings on what is was like to see his father returning from the fog of a brain injury. I thought it appropriate to include it here.


Returning. That's exactly what it feels like is happening and has happened over the last eight weeks. Many things are new again, and I am thankful for a more grateful perspective. Several people have said that I am more calm. One told me yesterday, "You're just so chill." I took that as a compliment! Whether it is a result of the brain injury, or intentional action on my part (I hope so!), I am grateful for peace! 

A friend recently told me that I look younger after having come through this experience. That was unexpected, since my remaining hair has turned white in the last eight weeks! For whatever positive that has happened in my persona, I am grateful.

I am grateful for time with family. Seeing my kids and being with my wife has all taken on new meaning for me. What amazing people they all are! I am only now realizing what a stressful experience this has been for them. While I have been focused on healing, they have needed to process and decompress from the stress of it all. I am so grateful for each of them.

Scotty (second son) gladly took the night shift, while I ordered him around in my jumbled brain state for a few nights. What a trooper! I know I was unreasonable at times, but he was always so patient. Jonathan, in his "fixer" kind of way, was always working on logistics and figuring out how to help me and to assist and support his mother. Annie, as always, brought a welcome bit of comic relief and kept people smiling! Jeremy (in Korea) and Hannah (in Ukraine) regularly checked in and expressed their love and support. I am so thankful for these people.

Scotty taking the night shift...
Returning to normal routines after receiving a second chance brings a renewed appreciation for the little things in life. Going to bed in a warm bed is a simple pleasure I more deeply appreciate these days! I realize my brain needs adequate space to heal, and sleep is a critical part of that, but following little, simple sleep routines is a wonderful pleasure! Warming my shoulder and neck wrap in the microwave, putting on a little chapstick, and my menthol oil from China are all simple actions that bring pleasure and I am grateful to be able to nod off to quiet music after having completed these simple routines. Going to bed. I am thankful.

Going for a walk in the snow with my wife of 37 years has been a joyful and sweet experience I will always treasure! We've had an unusual amount of snow and cold weather this winter, and shortly after I returned home, we were able to venture out for some pleasant walks. 

This is one amazing person...


Being with my students and my co-workers is a daily luxury! There are so many kind and wonderful people around us who care so deeply. From Jennifer's laugh echoing down the hallway, to Jack telling me he noticed the sunrise today...what joy there is in being a part of the lives around us. I am so thankful for the people who share our days.

The first time Jeannie and I went outside for a walk, we only went up and down the sidewalk in front of our house a time or two, and I was like a hunched over old man, unsure of his steps. It was exhilarating and discouraging at the same time. I wondered if it would always be like that. Now, I am back to a normal exercise routine up and down the hills in our neighborhood, at a normal pace, and have lost 30 pounds. I am so thankful to God for his mercy. 

Just going outside in the morning to get some  exercise is so exciting! When you've been through something like this, every time you are again able to see or do something you love brings such deep joy. I will always be so thankful for God's unmerited favor that has come my way. 

I don't know why the Lord has allowed me this second opportunity at life. I do know He is good and kind. I also know that even if i had died on the school bathroom floor that December 7th, or if I had emerged from this experience with cognitive or physical disability, He would still be good and kind. I may never understand why He allowed me this honor. I do know I am making my best attempt to steward this opportunity the best way I know how. So, if I see you in the store or at the coffee shop, don't worry if I wrap my arms around you and shed a tear. I tend to get a little emotional the first time I see people I love. You see, I am returning to normal life and I am really, really happy about it.







Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Most Epic Journey of My Life...

I'm sitting here contentedly in my comfy chair, enjoying the quietness of an Oregon winter storm. The snow is lovely, and all is quiet. This is an important part of this epic journey to which I referred in a Dec. 24 Instagram post. I wasn't sure I would ever enjoy such an experience again in this life.

The most epic journey to which I refer started on December 7, 2016, about 12:00 noon Pacific Time. I had been having some intense headaches for a few days, and on that day, I walked into the boys' bathroom of our Junior High (I am a part-time school principal.) and promptly hit the floor. I have no memory of this event. A brain aneurysm had burst deep inside the right hemisphere of my brain, sending me into a seizure on the not so clean bathroom floor.

As I understand it, after five or ten minutes, one of our students came in and found me, and immediately went to get help. The first people he came to were our science teacher and my wife, who also works in our school. So, here I was, a fairly private person, having seizure on the floor of the school bathroom. Wow. The epic journey begins.

My wife immediately called 911, and I was transported by ambulance to the local hospital, clearly in a near-death state. Once there, the neurologist on duty made the decision that I needed to be transported to OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland) via Life Flight helicopter. His decision saved my life, and I got my first helicopter ride, though I have no recollection of it. My wife had her first helicopter ride a few weeks ago in Hawaii. Oh well. 

It is important to note that more than half of the people who experience a burst brain aneurysm don't even survive to make it to the hospital. For whatever reason, my Father decided to preserve me up to this point.

Once I was at OHSU, it was confirmed that an aneurysm had burst and that a repair was required. On Thursday, the amazing neurosurgery team at OHSU threaded a catheter from the top of my right leg, up through my body, to the site of the burst aneurysm. Once there, they inserted a small metal coil in hopes that the blood in my brain would clot around it and seal it off. That is exactly what happened. The other option was to open my skull and seal it. I am ever so grateful for their skill, that we didn't have to take that option, and for God's amazing grace.

I have no memory from Wednesday noon until Thursday late afternoon, when I found myself in an intensely agitated state, pulling with all of my might (and I'm pretty strong) against the restraints around my arms. The restraints were in place to prevent me from pulling the cranial fluid drainage tube protruding from the top of my head. I remember feeling so confused and angry at being restrained.

I opened my eyes to see my second son and immediately yelled at him to take off the restraints. Apparently I was quite combative. 


Scotty taking the night shift...
In his gentle and kind way, Scotty said, "No, Dad."

"Take them off," I yelled again.

"No, dad." It must have been so hard for Scotty to endure this.

Looking back, this experience was so difficult for my family. No one knew what to expect, and I was largely unaware of what was happening until Friday afternoon. Two of my adult sons live in the US, my daughter lives in Ukraine with her Ukrainian husband, and my third son lives in Korea. They have been in touch regularly. 

My sons and my daughter-in-law have been rock stars through this journey! They pitched in and did what needed to be done to keep me comfortable and keep Jeannie, my wife, sane and fed. In fact, my two sons in the photo below sat by my bedside for several hours arm wrestling me so I could be free of the restraints. I am so thankful for them.


Jonathan and Scott decompressing in Newport.
On Friday, Dec. 9, I started to come around and gain some awareness of what was happening. We were told I would likely be in ICU for two to four weeks, and then in a regular room for an undetermined amount of time. 

As I emerged from the fog of what was happening, my family began to realize I was in a serious manic state, talking nonstop, and being quite demanding and condescending. (If any of you received messages from me during this time, they may not have made sense and I am sorry!)

This note from one of my students touched me deeply.

As several days passed, I began to realize the enormity of what had happened to me and that I was alive and apparently without any impairment, and my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude to the Father for life. Notes and greetings began to pour in, and I realized that there was an army of people praying for me. I will forever be grateful to all of you. Thank you.

As mentioned earlier, we were told I would be in ICU for several weeks, but after eight days, I was moved to a regular room in the Neurology unit. 

I began to feel stronger and take longer and longer walks around the hospital, and after one day in that room, we were told I could go home...nine days after a burst brain aneurysm!


The view from my room...
Neither Jeannie or I  felt ready to go home, and then the doctor said we needed to wait until Monday for insurance reasons. We were actually quite relieved. I was in a pleasant room with a lovely view from OHSU across Portland to Mt. Hood, so we just decided to enjoy the recovery time.

I came home on Dec. 19, twelve days after the event, without any cognitive or physical impairment. It is a miracle and I will always thank God for His unmerited favor. 

The support from friends and family has been astounding and I am so grateful for you all. I have been resting and giving my brain space to heal, since there is no manual on how to heal a brain. 

Break a leg? Put a cast on, take an x-ray, and you can walk when it's healed. Traumatic brain injury? Recovery is very personal and individual and there is no clear timeline. Rest, do what you can do, and don't overdo it. That's my plan for the near future. So far, it is working.

What are some of the things I have learned from this experience? 

  • God's mercies are new every morning.
  • There are so many good people around us.
  • My family is remarkable.
  • Every day is a new day.
  • Appreciate small things.
  • Kindness is never overrated.
  • We only have today.
  • And so much more...
Why did I post this on Instagram? I have been posting pictures of travels, yet this has been the most epic journey I have ever been on. Very few people emerge from such an experience without impairment, hence the statement, "Not many people have completed this trip." I am thankful and wanted to share this journey with my IG community in hopes you might take something from this trip, too.
My wife-hero on our walk yesterday...

From here, any IG posts may have a distinct flavor of being grateful for small things, whether near home or far away. Everything doesn't need to be presented as spectacular or amazing because life is spectacular and amazing all by itself. 

Thanks for reading.


Feeling great!

Christmas Eve clouds...grateful for every day.




                         


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Oh Holy Night..."

"Oh...holy Night! The stars..." 


You know how it goes. We've been joking about that all evening; that this is a holy night. Actually, it's a lot like other situations...situations where the joke actually contains the truth.

Yes, this IS a holy night, in a sense, because I believe that it is a defining moment in the life of our daughter and for this family. When you see the Father's plan unfolding, isn't that a holy night? Or a holy day? Or a holy moment? Or a holy minute?

This night is a holy night. It's the last night our daughter will spend in our home as a single woman. (Stopping for a moment, because I can't see the screen. Read between the teary lines.) Tomorrow we take our courageous daughter to fly off across the ocean to again be with her fiancé; the one who brings incredible joy to our Hannah's heart. Kudos to them, as they have successfully navigated a very long distance relationship for the last five months!

This is our Hannah. For those of you who have had the honor of knowing her, you know she is delightful. You know she is strong. She's too funny. She is amazingly capable. She is intelligent. Our Hannah is incredibly adventurous, and a bunch of other things. (I won't say she is beautiful, because she doesn't want to be defined by that, but she is beautiful. I'm just not going to say it.)

Hannah leaves tomorrow (well, actually it's today, since it is 1:45 am and I can't sleep) for Denmark, where she will meet Misha, the one who ignites her eyes, her brain, and her heart. They will then travel together to Ukraine for their wedding!

So...meet Misha! Our Ukrainian son!

Jeannie and I will leave on Wednesday to travel to Ukraine for their  wedding! (Yes, the Ukraine that is at war with Russia. Also the same Ukraine that is full of some of the most wonderful people I have ever met! And, the same Ukraine that captured by heart more that two decades ago.) 

It's so interesting to me that this is happening. For anyone who has known me for any length of time, you know that Ukraine has been so close to my heart since 1992, the first time I traveled there. Oh yes, that was the year Hannah was born! (Isn't that interesting?)

Through a series of miracles, I ended up in Ukraine in October of 1992, right after the breakup of the Soviet Union. It was on that trip that my heart was torn out of my chest and replaced with one that actually cared about nations and people and cultures. That happened in Ukraine. Ukraine. I remember the moment well.

Let's back pedal a minute...on that October 1992 afternoon, as I boarded the plane to travel to a far away country to work with school teachers, I looked at Jeannie standing in the window of the terminal with our three little boys around her, and a baby girl in her arms. As the plane began to  taxi down the runway, I have a distinct memory of looking at Hannah in her mother's arms, and at that moment the Father impressed on my heart that this was more than a trip to another country to work with school teachers and share Truth with them...this trip to Ukraine was far bigger than I realized! 

Oh my...if I knew then what I know now! That trip radically changed the course of my life, and has impacted my family in so many incredible ways! (More on that later...)

But now, here we are...it's a holy night, and I can't sleep. I am the father of the bride; the bride who will live abroad with her Ukrainian husband (Did I say that?); her Ukrainian husband who will protect her, serve her, and love her. It is quite a story.

Here's to you, Hannah and Misha...off into a new and grand adventure! Enjoy every moment and watch what the Father will do in, and through, and for you! We are all cheering for you! 

I love you and I am going to try to sleep now!




Monday, December 9, 2013

Did you notice?

Take a look at this photo...

Really, really look at it. Look at her eyes for more than just a few seconds. I cannot get this image from a few days ago out of my head. She is standing on Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, hoping that the government of her nation will turn towards Europe and will not step back towards Russia. She is hoping.

Look at her eyes and think about what it would be like to be her age in a country that has been oppressed again and again. Look at her eyes and think about the fact that her parents or grandparents or someone she loved was shipped off to the gulag or was starved to death in a famine that killed 33,000,000 people and was orchestrated by the government.

I know that we all have different things that have come into our lives and grab our hearts and make us uncomfortable and cause us to feel like we need to do something. I also know that something that grabs my heart may not grab your heart. I know that.

Ukraine grabs my heart. When I first ventured outside of U.S. borders in October of 1992, and ended up in Ukraine, I was a rookie traveler. I was a rookie traveler who grew up in a comfortable family, and who always had pretty much what I needed. I left the country 21 days later, crumpled up on the seat of my bus, unable to stem the flow of tears from my American eyes. My heart was forever changed that day.

The late October afternoon I left Kiev, just steps away from where the babushka in the picture is standing, Alexander, my interpreter, from across the room, mouthed three words that have haunted me to this day..."Never forget Ukraine."

I never have.

I can't.

I've been back twelve or fifteen or eighteen times. I don't know. I've lost count. It doesn't even matter. What matters is that I never forget Ukraine.

I can't forget the Roma children who experience intense racism that robs them of education and opportunity for a better life.

I can't forget the babushkas like the one in the picture above, who, in the last two weeks, have again dared to hope that things might change for the good in the land that they love.

I can't forget the sadness that has overshadowed this land...sadness borne of evil men who have caused grief after grief after grief that has slapped and beaten and knocked these people down.

I can't forget the depth of the warm hospitality of people who would give you their last loaf of brown bread or that one precious vase that belonged to their great grandmother once they realize you are for real and your care for them is simply that...care for them.

I can't forget the children in the state-run orphanage system that don't get the care and the education that they so desperately need. The problem usually isn't the workers. The workers often love these children and are dedicated enough to stick around for years for a few dollars a month. They simply don't have the resources to provide what is needed in a country that is an economic wreck as a result of years of oppression and plundering by those same evil men I mentioned earlier.

I can't forget that my burden is not your burden. I will keep going to Ukraine. On that fateful day in early October of 1992, my wife was standing at the window of the Eugene Airport with our three boys at her feet and their noses smashed up against the window, waving as the plane taxied down the runway, our six month old daughter in her arms.

At that moment, I felt the Father nudge my heart and whisper that what was happening was far bigger than I realized. Now, twenty years later, that six month old is in Ukraine working with those Roma children and those orphans. She returns in a few days.

Now, twenty years later, my niece and her husband and children have moved to Ukraine to work with more of those orphaned children, the lost of the lost, who have been hidden away due to disability. Yes, the continuing story is far bigger than I realized.

As important as all of this is to me, the point of this missive is not that you feel bad or take up my burden, though of course I want Ukraine to be important to you, too. If you've read this far, I want you to refer back to the title...Did you notice?

Did you notice? Now, look at the photograph below.


This is a photo I took at the beginning of the Christmas pageant at 7:30 p.m., last Wednesday night, at First Presbyterian Church. It's a long-standing tradition, put on by loving volunteers, who facilitate and coordinate and hold the hands and guide the feet of the disabled adults who present this gift to the community every year. If you've never experienced this event, don't miss it next year.

Now...what does the presence of several hundred thousand people in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, have to do with a small group of disabled adults in Corvallis, Oregon? Actually, the clue is in my question...Did you notice?

Did you notice these events? Did you notice these people? Did you take a minute to see, to really see what is happening around you? Some events are earth-shaking and are significant. Some events seem insignificant, but are not. Notice them.

That's my challenge to you. I'm not challenging you to take up my burden for Ukraine, though I do think you should be concerned about what is happening there. (Here's why: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/02/opinion/frum-ukraine-russia/index.html)

I'm challenging you to notice. I'll leave it at that.

Just notice. 

And then do something.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Simple Sundays...

Simple Sundays. I love Simple Sundays. Today is a Simple Sunday.

I think that a satisfied, well-lived life might be built on Simple Sundays. My definition of a Simple Sunday is a Sunday composed of relaxation, spiritual reflection and challenge, some good food, and the good people in my life.

Today is a Simple Sunday. It started with waking peacefully beside the lady who married me nearly 34 years ago on a sunny December afternoon. There's a lot of comfort in waking up and knowing that your wife and the mother of your children has been faithful and trustworthy over the years, and that you have never wandered into the arms of another woman. That is a great start to a Simple Sunday.

I pulled on my floppy black sweatshirt and my ugly black shorts and went and got the leash. It had fallen from the hook and was on the floor. Our quirky, fat, dog, Winnie, was restless and not so happy that I slept a little later than normal, as she really wanted to get outside and get going. We are living in a small apartment, temporarily, while we await a new place to visit, and eat, and sleep and create memories with family and friends.

A short walk away is McDonald Forest, one of my favorite places in all of the world.  Just outside of our front door is a pleasant trail that meanders through some Willamette Valley meadow land. Today, I decided to take the trail close by to watch the morning open up and listen to the late Fall song birds. I love that trail and I love Simple Sunday mornings.

After Winnie and I finished our morning exercise routine, I came back to the apartment, showered, made my breakfast smoothy with some shake mix, flax seed, a banana, some spinach, and soy milk. It sounds kind of gross, but it is really quite tasty, and is a part of my morning ritual, fueling a 55 year old man with what he needs to keep on keepin' on.

Jeannie and I went out the door, hopped into our faithful Honda Pilot, and went to pick up a friend who has been in our lives now for about 30 years. We drove the familiar route to downtown Corvallis, and walked into the landmark Whiteside Theatre, with its newly renovated marquee, where we used to watch movies and where we now gather with friends and yet-to-be friends to be challenged and encouraged and reminded to be grateful for all our Heavenly Father has done for us.

I waved to some co-workers across the theatre, hugged some people we love very much, and experienced a wonderful worship time led by a former student of mine. The speaker was the wife of the man who was our pastor when we started attending this gathering in the late 1990's. It was good to reconnect with her. She said some nice things about how Jeannie and I have impacted their family and their children. I teared up a little, thankful for the opportunity to impact the hearts of young people and then to live long enough to see where they end up in life.

After the service, we decided to go have a Sunday lunch on the town. We went over to Second Street to one of our new favorite hangouts. (Shout out to Laughing Planet and Spanky's Bowl with delicata squash!) Walking down the sidewalk, coming our direction, were some other dear friends of nearly 30 years, one of whom has just emerged from a battle with cancer. We invited them to share our table, and we talked about our adult kids, life struggles and joys, and where, on life's path, we are going next. I loved that time so much. I love those people so much.

Jeannie and Frankie had another ride home, and I wanted to go to one of our local produce stands to pick up some fall produce at rock-bottom prices. You can't beat low priced, fresh, Oregon goodness!

I drove down the road, with farmer's fields on both sides, and the late autumn sun peeking out from behind the clouds. For a few moments, it was warm enough that I could have the window down, Bruce Springsteen was on the radio, and my heart nearly burst with gratitude.

I love those moments when all is right with the world, even though it really isn't. It's important to lay hold of those moments of Simple Sunday peace in a hectic and chaotic world where things really don't make sense. It was one of those moments. Always grab those moments when they pass by and hold them and squeeze every bit of the juice out of them!

I pulled into the muddy parking lot and went into the produce stand, which, of course, was unstaffed, with the money box on the table. Does that happen in other countries? I've traveled abroad a fair amount, but in other countries I've never really seen a business that leaves the cash register full and on the table with no one around. We can do that here. We can leave the money on the table, and believe that people will take what they want, and leave the proper amount of cash. I love that. Yes, there are things wrong in Washington, but, along with that, there is a whole lot of good that gets smothered by the foolishness spewed all over us by the media. Just turn it off sometimes and enjoy the good.
 
I looked around for a bit and then gathered my Simple Sunday bounty, bagged it up, and weighed it on the scales provided. With a dull #2 pencil on the table, I listed the amounts on the nearby worn pad, totaled it up with old adding machine, and took a $20.00 bill out of my wallet. The total was $13.20, so I pried open the cracked, plastic money box, took out all the bills, made my change, put the other bills back in the box along with my $20.00 bill...a Simple Sunday moment for sure.

Actually, at that moment, as corny as it sounds, when I loaded my peppers, apples, squash, walnuts, popcorn, and red onions into the car, I was full of gratitude for where I live and for the simple opportunity to go to a farmer's produce stand, and buy some good food, knowing that he trusted me, and everyone else who stops by, to honestly trade our money for the work of his hands...a simple pleasure.

 Now, I am home. I unloaded a portion of the bounty of Oregon, and decided to share with you my thoughts about this Simple Sunday. I decided to share with you, not because I am anything special, or because I am so presumptuous to think that you would want to read my words; but, because if you do choose to read my words, you, too, might then take the time to appreciate today.

We all get too busy. Turn off your phone. turn off the television. Go outside. (Yes, even in this late Fall weather.) Look at the clouds. Watch the weather change. Wrap up in a quilt with a good book. Make time for family and friends. Get quiet and reflect on the goodness in your life.

If your Sunday isn't a Simple Sunday, do whatever it takes to make it so. It's worth it. There is a reason for the fourth commandment. Make time to "unstring your bow." A bow that is always strung and taut and ready for action eventually gets loose and is not longer useful. Unstring  your bow, leave the work alone, and have a Simple Sunday. You won't be sorry.

Oh yeah, in case you're interested, below is a picture of the Simple Sunday $13.20 bounty. It would have been only $8.20, but I threw in a $5.00 bag of walnuts for my walnut loving spouse.


Take a deep breath and enjoy the rest of this day.

Please?


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Leaves are Falling...

Wow...the last time I posted was a brief two years ago while in Vancouver, en route  to Asia. On that Amazing Race-like trip, with 14 crowded flights over 14 hectic days, after traveling through Korea and all over China, I ended up in the humidity of Vietnam, twitching and heaving in my Army Hotel bed, sicker than I have ever been in my life, and wondering if I would ever again leave the familiar surroundings of the United States of America...or even make it back there! (I think it was the jack fruit I ate on the street.)

The previous post was two years before that, after returning from an adventure-filled missions trip with Santiam students to Ukraine, with a little added side vacation to the Basque Country. What a wonderful experience that was! (You can read about that in a previous post!)

Two posts in almost 3.5 years! Impressive, huh? I have to do better than that. I enjoy writing. I recently made a goal to post regularly. Something needs to change, so here we go!

Look carefully at the photo above and to the left. That's "my forest." (Actually, it belongs to Oregon State University, but I like to pretend it's mine, since it is one of my most favorite places in the whole wide world.) Notice the lack of leaves and the misty fog hanging in the trees.

If you were up there today, which I was, you would see something quite different, something that looks like the photo below and to the right. You might not see Winnie, my quirky black and white dog, but you would notice a distinct difference in your surroundings. It's the same trail. The photo above is a little further up the trail, but it's the same forest. The same trail. The same amazingly beautiful surroundings.

 It's a different season. The top photo was taken last winter. The one to the right was taken today...early autumn.

I think back to the fact that I've only posted twice in 3.5 years. Seasons. Oh my, how rapidly the seasons have changed in the last 3.5 years! There are so many fantastic experiences that have enriched my life and the life of my family as the seasons of the last 3.5 years have evaporated! Of course, there have been some rough spots; those times when you wonder why something had to happen.

It sounds so cliche' to encourage you to seize the day. You know, the old "Carpe Diem" thing? It sounds cliche'; but, that is exactly what I want to encourage you to do. Grab the day! Go for the gusto! Be where you are!

Your children are going to grow up. Loved ones will pass and leave us. We'll move to new homes, and leave old neighborhoods. New jobs will come. Old jobs will end. Friends will move. Relationships will change.

Do today. I mean really do today. Look into your children's eyes. Really, really look. See your wife. Don't let the people around you become invisible to you and get all blurry because of today's urgent tasks.

I've started telling my students that I see them. I don't mean that I am watching to see if they do something wrong. I mean I SEE them. They are not invisible to me. I notice them.

You can never miss the changing of the seasons in our amazing Oregon; don't miss the seasons of your life. It's really easy to miss our time...to let it slide on by. Notice today. Notice those around you.

The leaves are falling.