God in the Checkbook, or Quicken’s Silver Lining


May, 2010 — Since my accident, now nine months on, I’ve noticed quite a few times that I lose track of time. I’m not talking about clock time. I’m talking about calendar time. The month. The date. The year. The day. I suppose it could be because I spent quite a few weeks away from home in medical care facilities, and additional weeks after arriving back home in hospital. In many of these places, if I had a view out the window, it was not a remarkable view. An empty sky. A brick wall. An air handler atop a pebbled roof. That same squirrel running across that same oak limb. No longer passing time according to well-established routines.

I was, and am becoming again, a pretty (excessively?) organized person. Used to be, when the mail came, or when I noticed it had been piling up, I would sort it carefully into piles. Junk mail. Bills. Checks. Personal correspondence — mine and theirs. And bank statements.

I would quickly process most of the piles described above. Junk mail to the trash. Bills into the desktop sorter, according to due date. Checks to the desk next to the “for deposit only” stamp. Other correspondence would be sorted (thrown or stuffed, really) into each family member’s stair basket. Contents were to be removed from baskets by basket owners and carried upstairs. The expression, “Out of sight, out of mind,” and the term “black hole,” seem to fit.

Early in my adult checkbook independence, I learned the benefits of the envelope system and the ledger sheet method. Still, with lots of handwritten checks and ledger entries, home finance management was slow going. Enter Quicken! I no longer had to handwrite checks. Sweet! Having set up my paycheck allocations, and my income and expense categories, home finance management became much more streamlined.

Back to the mail. The bank statements would go into a pile that I scarcely could bear to look upon. Were I to see the pile, it was a chilling and demoralizing reminder that account reconciliation afternoons were seldom happy occasions. Missing receipts. Deposits I was sure of, but which the bank seemed to have overlooked. The check ledger’s “miscellaneous” category, with its siren call, “Use me for discretionary purposes.” Deep inside I knew it was merely the much misused ledger account I would deplete to make adjustments necessary to balance with the bank. Sigh. I can’t remember how many times six months would pass before I would tackle and reconcile a half year of bank statements. Upon slaying these multi-month statement dragons, I would sincerely proclaim I’d learned my lesson, and then announce, “I will never let this happen again.” I’ve been making that same announcement every six months for years.

This past week, I gathered all of the receipts, deposit slips, and the almost sacred composition book my lovely heroic wife used to split and track every check-writing atom. My involuntary abdication of the home finance management throne thrust my beloved wife into the role. I daresay she would rather have had weekly root canals. So, back on the throne, I began to work through the past 9 months’ income and expense history.

Quite unexpectedly, it was as though my newer version of Quicken had a AAA Trip-Tic function. Looking at every receipt, deposit slip and check number, it was as though each one was a Rick Steves travelogue stop with its own narrative. Entering each item, I matched transaction dates with transaction locations, picturing in many cases the payee / payor parties involved. I now understood where my wife and kids went each day — Target, Giant, Wal-Mart, the doctor’s office, Muvico, birthday shopping. I now could see who got new shoes, new clothes, a treat at Chick-fil-A, a prescription refill, a fill-up. Many deposit entries evidenced the staggering generosity of friends, family and strangers whose targets for kindness we were.

These bits of data — now all strung together — provided a much needed, much more useful cash flow picture. More significantly, this plodding multi-night exercise evidenced God’s close providential care, and reconnected me with the familiar reality away from which I had been so long, and with — to my eyes — a vast company of caring and supportive people.

And He who did not spare His only begotten Son, how will He not also along with Him freely give us all things?

Fearfully and Wonderfully Broken


On August 20, 2009, four years and five months ago, I enjoyed my last two-wheeled bike ride and experienced a real life-changer. Now a C7 tetraplegic, paralyzed from the mid-chest down, I have grown in my appreciation for God’s grace and mercy (after all, I could’ve been killed or much more profoundly injured). I have also tasted the richness of family relationships, other relationships established through the years, and the many shades of encouragement and support these friendships have borne. Living in a broken earth suit with limited physical abilities was at first very difficult as my identity, purposes, style, calling, and significance rested heavily on my abilities. I’m persuaded that independence can isolate, and that what amounts to diminished pride can be a good thing. My new normal has been characterized as a peculiar stewardship. My needs and dependence have deepened relationships with those who are close to me. And, they have brought me closer to those I knew well long ago but from whom I had grown apart. I appreciate, and can empathize more genuinely and experientially with, others who have met with deep difficulty. While I hope and pray for improved neurological function, this momentary light affliction is changing and refining me as I look to the Lord, endeavor to trust in Him, and live patiently in the “new normal.” Having once stood 6’4″, life now happens at 55 inches. Life, while at lower altitudes, is still very rich.

Got Gum?


Tap, tap, tap went a small finger on his shoulder. The finger’s owner proclaimed in a slightly too loud voice, “Found a new flavor, Mr. H. — Stride Minty-Melon!” He broke off his chat with some relatively unimportant adult and turned to see Chloe, his almost always first post-church-announcement visitor. She would stop by to swap “gourmet” chewing gum, before heading outdoors with her mates. This particular day, she stood her usual four feet six inches tall, hair cut in a bob, wearing a dress, blouse, sweater, leggings, and shoe ensemble whose colors and patterns were, while reminiscent of Eloise meets Pippi Longstocking, curious and cool. She could pull it off. Clearly artistic, bohemian maternal and grandparental roots, he thought.

On Sundays, his family would rush around madly to leave just in time to be only a little late. He would toss what he needed into his Timbuk2 bike-courier bag, taking care to include his trading ritual chewing gum. On this particular morning, he lamented having the same pack of gum he’d brought to church last week — Wrigley’s Extra Dessert Delights Sugar Free Key Lime Pie. He thought, Grrrr. Chewing gum ‘leftovers.’ Mehhh, . . .Maybe she’ll forget our gum exchange ritual. Her offering pinched securely between pointer and thumb, she challenged, “What kind do you have to trade today, Mr. H?”

Cornered, his palms began to sweat. He tried to think of something clever to say. Some pithy distraction that would mask his failure to infuse the post-church-announcement gum exchange with fresh trading wampum. Think, man. Think!

Newhart was pure primetime sitcom artistry. Innkeeper turned community cable-channel talk-show host, Dick Loudon (Bob Newhart) and his wife Joanna (Mary Frann) run a charming Vermont country inn, surrounded by a cast of eccentric characters. Some of these regulars are employees, some are town-folk, and others are occasional visitors. Among the regulars are brothers Larry, Darryl, and Darryl, backwoods shack-dwelling wierdos whose plaid flannel and denim wardrobe never changes. In one episode, Larry, Darryl and Darryl attend night class. The following day Larry tells the Loudons how impressed they were by the complimentary gum the school offers . . . located conveniently beneath the classroom seating. Lost in thought, he chuckled to himself, only to be called back to reality by an insistent 11 year-old — “Mr. H. . . . Hey, Mr. H! . . . . Do you have gum to trade or not?”

Cornered, he quickly called an audible at the line. “Big Red – Five! Big Red – Five!” He would baffle her with trivia from the best of Gum Chewers Digest. Puffing out his chest, he looked down over his glasses at his increasingly dissatisfied trading partner and woofed, “You know, Chloe, chewing gum’s been around a surprisingly long time. Chewing gum with tooth imprints, made of birch bark tar, has been found in Finland, dating back at least 5,000 years to the Neolithic period. Its composition, flavoring and packaging has been refined remarkably through the centuries, and its applications range from simple bubble blowing amusement, to practical mouth-moistening, to miraculous accelerative post-gastrointestinal surgical healing, to survivalist adhesive or leak-plugging uses, and — wouldja believe it?– oral healthcare. Did you know sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol has been shown to reduce cavities and plaque? What’s more, . . . “

Chloe yawned, rolled her eyes, and spun dismissively on her really cool colorful shoes, speeding off to join the thundering primary grade herd. He followed after her, fumbling for his gum pack, calling, “Chloeeeee, wait a minute!” Once outside, she halted, looked at him suspiciously and pronounced, “Mr. H., you talk too much.” He timidly held out his key lime pie. Softening, eyes brightening, she presented her minty-melon. The exchange was complete. “Thanks, Mr. H. I love key lime pie! I’m gonna save this for my ride home from school tomorrow. Gotta go!” Dashing away, she yelled, “See ya next week, blabber-mouth”

Father of the Bride Toast 2 — Heidel-McFadden Wedding Reception


Heidel-McFadden Wedding Reception
Historic Fairfax County Courthouse
August 17, 2013

Good evening.

I trust and hope everyone is enjoying their meal having a good time.

Alice and I are happy to welcome you, and grateful for your participation in this joyful happy celebration of Allie’s marriage to Kenneth.

This week and at other times, I have thought about Monica, St. Augustine’s mother. Augustine was reputed to be a godless rogue in his youth. Monica was respected as a godly, tireless, stormer of heaven’s gates as she faithfully, over many years prayed that God would mercifully capture, constrain, and conform Augustine to the image and character of Christ — which in time He did. And to no meager result.

Well, I must admit I am no match for Monica in exercise of prayer. Allie’s mom — Lovely and Heroic Alice is a far worthier example. But, I can honestly tell you I have prayed through the years for my children to be captured, constrained and conformed as Trophies of God’s grace, and in due season to be matched in marriage with another of Christ’s Trophies.

I also know ones of you in this room who have labored in prayer for such an outcome among Alice’s and my children. And, I suspect that many of you I may not know well have done similarly.

Well, look what God has done as we have prayed!

This meal, our enjoyment of it, our laughter, our song, our dance, our happiness, our toasts, our hopeful anticipation for them, and our memories of the day in weeks, months and years to come are culminating tokens of the thankfulness that fills us for what God has done.

Kenneth and Allie, we raise our glasses to you both. God bless and keep you. God look upon you with favor. Laugh often. Love each other deeply. Make your home courageously and fearlessly, double check your pitons, and pack your own parachutes, but remember that mountain climbing and sky-diving can lead to higher insurance premiums. And, don’t forget to call your mothers.

Spare Not the Rods — Fishing and Other Capon Musings


For several years, we have vacationed in West Virginia, at a location beloved by my wife’s mom and dad, which was the venue for their fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration in 1994. That year was our first visit, and we celebrated the occasion with my wife’s sisters and their families. We look forward to these annual reunions, and make the trek each summer (July usually), to rejoin the extended family bunch. My wife, our four daughters, two sons-in-law, four sons, one daughter-in-law, one grandson, my sister, my wife’s mother and three sisters, and their families, and not infrequently a family guest or three. Our destination is down in a secluded “holler” with (to the surprise of the uninitiated) many conveniences and amenities: golf course, hiking trails, swimming (the spring-fed pool is filled with near glacier run-off), good roads for cycling, an adequately stocked pond (bring your own rods, or borrow a bamboo “fish-catcher” at the desk), cool sleeping weather, and good food served family-style three times a day.

It is not impossible to communicate with me while I’m there, but as I begin my break from work, I like to tell my colleagues that while I’ll be in the continental U.S., I may be hard to reach. I tell them the internet runs on “bobbed-war,” and the phone’s a party line up a pole (picture Olivaaaah on Green Acres) where messages can be taken, wrapped around a rock and dropped down to the runner. Any messages brought down from the pole will be removed from their rocks and posted on a whiteboard just inside the dining room. I try to remember to look for my messages three times a day, but only after I dine. Perhaps a slight exaggeration. Oddly enough, they seldom attempt to reach me. If absolutely necessary, I can hike up the first fairway and “summit” the first green where, having climbed to sufficient elevation I just might receive a faint T-Mobile signal. I get a signal boost if I remove and raise the flag stick real high in my off-hand.

It’s an out of the way place we enjoy very much.

Speaking of meals, there are usually 20-25 people at our table for meals. We enjoy lots of good food. The litany below is what comes to mind as I write. At breakfast, eggs any style (two poached soft on toast is my regular), double and triple bowls of oatmeal and seven-grain cereal, buckwheat flap jacks, rashers of bacon, sausage patties and links. For lunch, wonderful salads, watercress with piquant dressing, spaghetti with meat sauce, silver-dollar burgers with grilled onions, Sunday duck and turkey. For dinner, more salads, iridescent roast beef, fried chicken, meat loaf, the fried fish-pork combo, fresh baked rolls and fresh vegetables. Desserts include Whitehouse cherry ice-cream, fresh watermelon wedges, cantaloupe with a scoop of lime sherbet, vanilla ice-cream with chocolate sauce, gingerbread cake with whipped cream.

In the dining room, the waitresses all wear white outfits, and rush around with great precision and efficiency, pushing brushed steel carts loaded with the day’s meal offering. They remind me of nurses in a 1950’s movie, rushing patient gurneys from the ER into the operating room. All food is served on indestructible pastel colored melamine plates, and bowls. The ceiling fans hum. An occasional birthday or anniversary is celebrated table-side accompanied by appropriate music played over a crackly speaker. A cake appears and is delivered on (you guessed it) a brushed steel cart to the celebrants’ table. Tournament results, evening events, and assorted miscellaneous announcements are made, then finished with a concluding trademark “That is all. Thank you.”

Several meals are served on the hill under the first fairway pavilion (beside the fairway, but beneath the “summit”). Hill-dinners are “Chicken on the Hill” and “Steak on the Hill”, both cooked over impressive brick barbeque pits full of glowing charcoal briquettes and attended by various multi-tasking staff personalities. Hill-lunches feature the salad-sandwiches (chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad) all on bread with crust removed, and barbeque pork plopped on a whole wheat roll. Can’t forget the endless sweet hill-tea (for some reason, can’t get sweet tea down below in the dining room).

Meals are also, as my daughter Ginny taught me, opportunities for community, fellowship and deepening friendships. I believe she would say, “Meals should have meaning.” It’s always interesting to see who sits by whom at each meal, and who rotates to sit by different whoms as people take an early leave from the table. Cousins reunite. Siblings banter. Members of the younger generation are cornered by their seniors and pumped for information as to academics and career trajectories. Disparate political, theological and philosophical views can be aired (and are). The ten-and-unders, the eleven-to-fifteens, the legal drivers and collegians, the working class and retirees all intersperse and seem to dialog very naturally. Age-based cliques and silos are dissolved.

Meals here are also opportunities to showcase and satisfy man’s ages-old fisher-gatherer instincts. A visit to the pond, which yields a “keeper,” permits the fisherman an opportunity to enjoy his or her fish at the next scheduled meal, sans head, filleted, egg and cornmeal battered and fried up goo-oood.

This prospect brings me to the point of this narrative.

Over the years, the kids have clamored for me to bring fishing poles. I did that in the past, but stopped, because I grew tired of prepping the rods, stocking the tackle box, picking up the 7-Eleven night crawlers that no one but me would cut, threading them onto the barbed hook, and then having repeatedly to untangle the lines I prepped. Fishing in July had become for me like a warm weather version of winter wear bundling. You spend 20 minutes to get junior all dressed up in his snow suit, boots, gloves and hat, only to hear him say “I gotta pee.” Big build up. Big let down.

Notwithstanding my cynicism, I do enjoy thinking back over one fishing event several years ago. my son, Chip was late to dinner one evening. The cousins last saw him at the pond, fishing. I got up from the table and went to retrieve him. When I got to the pond, he was on the dock, clearly in distress. Seems he’d strung a triple-hook on his line, baited it, drew back the rod and cast. All three hooks were traveling at whip-crack speed, and one (it only takes one) found its way to that sweet spot just below the left rear blue jean pocket, where it penetrated Levi Strauss’s best, and buried itself in Chip’s derrière.”

“Well, well. Interesting,” I said.

Assessing the situation, I removed the fillet knife from the tackle box and cut a quarter-sized piece of stone-washed denim to expose the butt-buried hook. I was now ready to perform a gluteal hook-ectomy. I’m pretty sure those blue jeans are the only thing that fillet knife ever cut. Using the needle-nosed pliers in the tackle box, I cut the fishing line, disconnecting the rod from the hook. I next took hold of the hook and moved it around gently. Despite my gentleness, Chip insisted on howling. I replied, “Shhhhh. You’ll scare the fiwaaaahaaaahaaahaaa . . . . ”

Studying the situation a moment longer, I looked him in the eye, and said, “This is definitely going to hurt you more than it hurts me.” I suggested he put the handle of the rod between his teeth and bite down hard when I counted to three. Grasping hook with pliers, I began counting, “One . . . two . . . (forgot three) . . .” and yanked the hook with lightening speed, freeing him from the snare.

The extracted hook, with denim circle still attached has occupied a spot on our kitchen bulletin board ever since.

This year I brought two rods. Zip tied ’em to the luggage rack. When I got up our first morning and headed out, I met Chip who asked, “Did you hear about Giff ?”

The pond is home to a variety of small-ish fish (perch, sunnies, etc.), and some decent size cat fish. There are also several huge carp. 2-3 feet in length. Lazy bottom-feeders. Never bite. Not interested in any lure. Ever. Been that way for years. Giff got up at 0-dark-30 and went to the pond with a rod for an early morning angling session. Little did Giff know, as did Sir Issac Walton, was that the carp is the queen of rivers (and ponds); a stately, a good, and a very subtil fish. Plus, the American Carp Society in March of 2006 paid out $275,000 to carp anglers. Really. So, Giff stood on the small dock, and floated the line in the water espying his big game fish. He hung the bait just above his intended catch, and waited.

Gnats are a problem at times.The establishment provides punks (hand-held incense sticks without the stink) which are lit and waved to cast a smoky haze around one’s head and shoulders. Wielded properly, these will drive the gnats over to the next punkless guy. We even light seven or eight at a time and stick them in whole wheat rolls at the hill-meals to create a gnat no-fly zone. Well, Giff set the rod down to light his punk . . . .

In a flash, the rod rocketed off the dock and into the pond. That fat, lazy carp had become caught, and was heading for deeper water at high speed with my rod in tow! No doubt a genus cyprinus mistake.

As he returned to the carp academy dragging a rod along behind him, no doubt his fellow cyprinus carpo (the common carp) ostracized him like they would the guy who leaves the men’s room with a foot of toilet paper stuck to his shoe. He was probably branded a carp-leper by the uppity hypophthalmichthys moultrix (the silver carp) and hypophathalmichthys nobilis (the bighead carp) — the pond caste system’s carp-brahmins.

I can just hear him now: “Listen here! I innocently brushed up against a medial-fin-high ball of dough, and it snagged me! Honest! I’m a carp for goodness sake. I eat bottom scum like the rest of you. What do I want with a ball of dough?! That stuff is bait for the bourgeois! Come on, guys!”

As the rod rocketed off the dock, Giff lunged, diving forward and reaching elbow deep into the pond. Alas, he was not long enough of arm. Rod gone.

At breakfast, I quelled my urge to yell at him for losing my rod. After all, were it not my rod, were it some other family, this would be a pretty cool story. I told him so, and we fist-bumped.

To his credit, he spotted what looked like a rod at the bottom of the pond later that afternoon. So, the next morning before breakfast, he, Allie, and I took a row boat out on Butt Hook Pond. And, after 25 minutes of rowing clumsily in circles to hold our position, still in time to make it to breakfast, we managed to fish the lost rod out of the pond.

Both rods are back safely in my garage, snugly hung against the ceiling out of reach. Next July, I’ll be asked to bring the fishing rods. I’ll ignore the question. Then I’ll grumble. Then I’ll acquiesce and tie them to the car roof for another adventure.

Map Maker, Compass, Walking Stick and Guide


Though our emotional journies may wind through rugged terrain and barren sadness, God formed that terrain, He is map maker, compass, walking stick and guide. He gives grace often and most generously as we look to, trust in, and lean heavily upon Him.

Psalms 25:12,14 — Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.

Father of the Bride Toast — Heidel-McFadden Rehearsal Dinner


Heidel-McFadden Rehearsal Dinner
Maggiano’s, Tysons Galleria
August 16, 2013

I was asked by Allie a few weeks ago to offer up the Father of the Bride Toast at tomorrow’s wedding reception, and had already been thinking of what I might say on this rehearsal dinner occasion.

In order to avoid being branded and ill-prepared and unoriginal public speaker, I resolved to come up with something fresh. But, some things, they say, never change and so having borrowed a bit from past rehearsal dinner remarks, I offer up my apologies in advance to those of you who were present to hear those.

Among many immutable laws of nature is this: Chuck in front of a crowd, making remarks = high probability he’ll cry. To those of you who will be unsettled by this I apologize again in advance.

This is the second opportunity I’ve had to attend a Heidel rehearsal dinner and wedding since Chip and Ellie were married and I was only a few months into life in a broken earth-suit. It was splendid to be a virtual participant through the magic of cell phones, video and Skype. Four years on, I find myself not often looking too far ahead with great certainty. So, it is doubly sweet for me to be here with you all in spirit and body, appetites at the ready.

When I first met Kenneth (a.k.a. Ken-Ken, or Ken-Ken McFab-Fab, or K-K McF-F as he later came affectionately to be known . . . even if behind his back), he struck me as a somewhat introspective, quiet man. It could have been that he landed in the midst of the Heidel mob during our mealtime tsunami. It wasn’t long before he seemed at ease, working the crowd warmly — both young and old. I observed him to be questioner and a listener. I was impressed by the range of his relationships, and his ability to dial-in to those relationships on a variety of constructive levels. More than the obligatory surface “Hey — How are you?” As he and I had opportunity to talk, I appreciated these qualities more.

In time, I came to learn Kenneth was a Virginia Tech Hokie. Perhaps not surprisingly and taking some license, in light of Isaiah 11:6 (. . . the VT Hokie laying down with the UVA Wahoo . . .), that proved to be no impediment. He even politely listened to my cover of the Univesity of Virginia Pep Band’s 1979 rendition of a Hokie-fied Ballad of Jed Clampett. See me offline if interested.

I appreciated — if only vicariously — his love for the outdoors, being active, clinging like Spiderman to sheer vertical rock faces, hurling himself out the doors of perfectly fine airplanes, and wandering around the Alaskan bush without enough bread crumbs. I noted these were things he and Allie enjoyed in common.

On one or two occasions we spoke about career alternatives in the Christian camping realm, and I appreciated his wanting to understand and carefully consider that world. I also came to see and appreciate his love for Christ and his desire (put in into action) to influence his many Burke Community Church minions accordingly.

In time he and I spoke about his affection for in Allie and his interest in having that relationship advance. I had some experience evaluating daughter-suitors. One or two of those evaluations went a bit rough early on, no doubt due to my youthful (merely) book-learned zeal and inexperience. When Kenneth and I intersected, we spoke very candidly, openly, and warmly — right? (looking directly at Kenneth) — and it was the case that his interest and intentions were in line with my paternal expectations. His respect and deference meant a lot to me then, and it was plain to see his treatment of Allie was that of a servant, not a self-server.

These conversations weren’t convenient either, as Kenneth circumnavigated the Beltway several times during or heading into rush hour traffic. He had to work hard getting to Laurel to have them.

Our culminating conversation calendared, he secretly met me in the neighborhood and drove us both to Long Horn where we enjoyed appetizers and a beer. I asked him what he wanted to talk about. He told me he loved Allie and wanted my permission to ask her to marry him. I happened to be looking down at that moment (having dropped my nacho), and raised my head to look him in the eye, and I replied, “No (emphasis on “No”) . . . prrrrrrroblem whatsoever.”

Kenneth’s face blanched a bit before regaining its ruddy swarthy color. We laughed . . . OK. Maybe only I laughed.

Our conversation then ventured in a number of directions — all at least semi-serious topics, even the smaller print “In sickness, and in health” possibilities. I appreciated those exchanges (even though he left me with the check), and was again grateful for his viewing this prospect as a servant, not a self-server.

It is sometimes true that you can judge a man by the company he keeps. So might it be said that you can judge a man by the parents and family he comes from. Recognizing the limitations of human agency, but that God ordinarily achieves His ends through means which are sometimes relationships, as Alice and I came to know Bill and Carol better, and have learned of (and now met) the siblings, I appreciate Kenneth even more.

Now onto Allie. When I first met Allie, she was very close to her mother . . . .

It wasn’t long before we were very good friends though, and her creativity, fearlessness and athleticism began to bubble up.

Hair like a Muppet, thunderous thighs, fearless in the face of stampeding chickens, consultatively pushing the envelope in play house, sandbox and dirty laundry closet hygiene, creatively combining free-fall with salad-plate landings. Later a tumbling aerialist with prehensile toes that could wring the balance beam before flipping, spinning, catapulted landings were “stuck.” Able to shag to Carolina Beach Music. A talented car radio in the driveway air guitarist and or lead vocalist (best songs were Don McLean’s American Pie and Elton John’s Funeral for a Friend). Disciplined, hard-working, and a player-through-pain. Able to adapt to circumstances: gymnast and piano student gone abroad, turned ballet teacher and church pianist. Tenacious. Dutiful: surrogate mother to 4 younger siblings while Alice and I were in Atlanta the better part of three months. A lover of Christ and the relationships He finds for her.

Through high school and off to college, her artistic abilities were honed and developed as photo-journalism met Helen Keller, River Citeeziens (Music Man), and Ariel (The Tempest).

Having grown up in a Christian family, many of her presuppositions were put to the test but emerged tempered, not torn to pieces.

And, young men began appearing on the radar.

As Allie’s father, believing I had a role to play in her relationships with these “friend-boys,” I insinuated myself into those relationships. Sadly, my involvement wasn’t always appreciated. Many times I feared that what had been a treasured father-daughter relationship would be hopelessly unraveled. But you know, God is good. He kept both of us soft. And our continuing friendship has proven to be a very favorable climate in which we would later ponder an ever more serious relationship with a certain Hokie.

Kenneth, I appreciate your determination, perseverance, respect and friendship. And I am grateful to the Lord for his work in your life. I trust and believe you will lead and care for Allie tenderly, taking as your model Jesus Christ who gave himself up for His bride, the Church. Ephesians 5:25-32

Allie, I love you and am delighted for you to marry Kenneth. I have no doubt you will adorn him wonderfully. Ephesians 5:22-24

God bless you both.

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.

Dominoes, Pigs, Vacuums, and Providence Unfolded


An adaptation of some early December correspondences, and a follow up to our January 7th post of a similar name.

In August 2013, I learned that a long-present (since the Spring of 2012) sacral-coccyx (think rear end) pressure sore, to which we wheelchair-rangers are especially susceptible, had deepened to a critical point. I had been trying to manage this independently (not always effectively) before finally seeking professional wound care. In January 2013 I was prescribed Prednisone, an immuno-supressive steroid, for another condition. Over the months, the sore remained uninfected, shallow and generally “healthy.” Doctors hoped a gradually tapering dose of Prednisone, along with pressure management, would permit healing — even if slowly. Given a combination of these and other factors, several of which are mutually complicating, and despite my attempts to relieve pressure on and around the area, skin graft surgery was set for December 9th.

There were in fact three surgeries. The first was a reversible diverting colostomy, the second a same day skin-fold prep procedure, and the third, on December 17th, a final skin fold procedure. I now euphemistically refer to my surgeries derrière as a two-stage life style lift, complemented by a holiday bonus colostomy (nervous laughter).

I must tell you I was, have been, and am still occasionally quite anxious about all of this: procedures, recovery, possible complications, recovery, healthcare administration, insurance, things back home, returning to work, colostomy management, etc. Suddenly, all these anxieties, certainly understandable, were considerably louder than my oft’ proclaimed confidence that, until my time is up, God will uphold, care for, protect, preserve, heal, and deliver me. Positions easily asserted are put to the test when placed under the knife.

God, knowing our weaknesses inspired Paul who wrote to Peter Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.. And to the Philippians “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.. Centuries later, The Westminster Assembly would craft its Shorter Catechism (with which some of you may be familiar): Q. 98. What is prayer? A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

And so, I have prayed. Others have prayed and wished well. For God’s grace and favor on surgeons (two), nurses, and medical staff administering care. That there would be no surgical complications. That wounds, incisions, etc. will heal quickly, and for freedom from infection. For contentment during a long (for me) period of inactivity – away from home and during the Christmas season. That my time away from home will provide Alice rest and refreshment. That the full outworking of all these plans, events and variables will result in greater independence (self-care, mobility, effectiveness at work, etc.). That I will be back to work in January, as planned.

And God has graciously provided. Procedures have been carried out without complication. I have spent five weeks post-op in hospital and skilled care facilities convalescing. The food, though experimental, hasn’t killed me. House is still standing. Lovely heroic wife is more lovely and heroic than ever. Kids and dog are in good health. I was able to use accrued leave, so as to avoid filing for Short Term Disability. My homecoming date, once scheduled for January 15th, has been pushed back to the 18th. And, my return to work date is tentatively projected (aggressively but hopefully) as January 20th.

Hoping you’ll have found this ramble to be encouraging.

Four Years On


August 20th. Feeling dull today.

THE day. Four years on.

Saw it coming. Should be purposeful in some deliberate direction. Should be laying my Ebenezer here or there, or going back to visit one. No real inclination. Knackered.

For nervous earlier weeks and frantic days, I’d ridden the joyful rising emotional currents of Allie’s much anticipated marriage to Kenneth. A happy distraction whose preparations unleashed an ant colony-like pre-nuptial industrial machine. Addressing, licking, sealing, stamping, sewing, arranging (think flowers), cooking, counting, cleaning, driving, shopping, picking up, dropping off, confirming, double-checking, reconfirming, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The occasion brought back to Oxwell Lane a seeming flotilla of far and near flung family — like notes in bottles to their writers’ home — to stay, make preparations and celebrate, and to add another line or two to the story. Joined by flotsam friends and jetsam strangers-made-friends, more bottles were pushed ashore by converging streams and currents, whose notes are now scribed, stories made richer, rolled, replaced, and safely corked.

Sadly, all these bobbing glass note-bearers have been pulled back out to sea on an ebb tide, and the pre-nuptial factories have closed down.

On this fourth accidentiversary, work beckons. Nagged me for most of the three days I’d planned to be on a pre-wedding vacation. Seemed reasonable at the time. I managed to be mostly “off” post-marriage Monday, as Emily and Jonatan packed and flew back to Swede-land. But my hopes of taking off all of August 20 — THE day — on some special day-long excursion were usurped. Shoved off the calendar by a mob of meetings and calls. I did selectively speak of the anniversary with two or three colleagues that day, one of whom is four years on following her breast cancer diagnosis.

We later ordered-in sushi to compliment our typical “Taiwan Tuesday” evening repast of fried rice and dumplings. And before ending the day, I keyed in a Facebook shout out to as many names and groups as I could recall, whose support and encouragement had served in various ways to get us to this point. A feeble attempt. Hoping they’ll be skimming their Newsfeeds later and catch my Hail Mary thanks. I’ll catch up with others as our paths cross. (“Likes” and Comments later suggested some had been News-grazing” in the right spot.)

Be It Resolved and Deo volente, five years on is to be more deliberately celebrated.


Passing This Along: Why Are Drivers So Angry At Cyclists?


Cyclists, ride in heavy motorized traffic areas? Motorists, drive routes frequented by cyclists? Others, know anyone in these groups?

Read on.

Though the deed’s been done, so to speak, I still read articles like the one linked below with interest. Partly cathartic. Partly wanting the cyclists among us to realize they are piloting vehicles over regulated traffic grids and can be hard to spot. Partly wanting motorists to realize that pedal powered road riders can be hard to spot, and that their impatience can and does easily flare into anger. At that moment they’re piloting a one and a half ton battering ram.

Not all accident-involved cyclists are in the clear. Neither are all accident-involved motorists guilty of malfeasance. But, phamous physicists’ notions are sometimes tragically proven when two and four wheeled objects, of distinctly different size, weight, inertial mas and speed, traveling on regulated traffic grids, with vastly unequal crumple zones, meet (contact force).

Often, the box score reads: Cars 1. Bikes 0.

So, read, hone your awareness, understand the potential of physics, appreciate crumple-zone inequalities, wear a properly fitted helmet (cyclists), and pass along. Thanks.

Why Are Drivers So Angry At Cyclists?