Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Lot on My Mind

I don't like when Dori and the kids leave town. They've been in Ohio visiting Dori's Mom, Dori's sister Kathy and husband Nathan, and their two great kids. I know they're having fun. Down here in Tennessee, I'm lonely.

I like being with my dog and knowing where the remote control is, but other than that, living solo doesn't have many benefits. The house is dead quiet. Kathryn isn't playing the piano. Dori isn't cooking or getting something in order. Will isn't shooting baskets outside. I miss them. It sucks.

Thankfully, I have family closeby. My step-Dad, Dan, helped me clear dead trees and limbs for 90 minutes yesterday morning. My sister, Anne, and I hiked five miles at Radnor Lake yesterday afternoon, and I joined her and husband Stephen for dinner last night. Dinner was spectacular ... grilled chicken, a parmesan polenta, baked tomatoes and zucchini in bread crumbs, EVOO and parmesan, and grilled Tuscan bread. The accompanying wine, a 2005 Gabbiano Chianti Classico, was the prefect complement. I will tell you something Anne doesn't know yet ... she will be cooking the exact same meal before my next race. Here's why.



That meal was great fuel. I ran eight fast, very easy miles this morning at Percy Warner Park in perfect conditions. I started on the 5.8-mile loop. The hills looked flat today, and I took them with ease. I felt so good at the end I had to keep going, so I added another 2.2 and ran it at an 8:00/mile pace. I could have run faster and longer, but I decided not to push it. It's been awhile since I ran a middle distance.

On the run, I thought about Ronni Gordon, who announced on her blog she has relapsed. I told Dori about this before she left for Ohio, and she just cried. I was angry and still am. Real angry. I think regularly about the possibility Dori could relapse. It doesn't dominate my thoughts, but it's always there. It's not negative thinking; it's just something I continually process. Usually, I finish with positive thoughts, like "Jim, you need to keep living in the moment. Live now. Cherish every day, every moment. Now go do it." When I read Ronni's entry, it just slapped me. How do you process that? It's not easy, but you just do ... eventually.

Today's run helped me with my loneliness and my anger about Ronni's relapse. At the park entrance, I saw my friend, Chuck Hargrove, who had just finished the 11.2 loop with some friends. Chuck, always nice and complimentary, asked me when I'll be running my first full marathon. This summer somewhere up north, I said. For now, I'm looking forward to more good weather and more good runs like today, as well as my family back in our house safe and sound.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Magic

Merry Christmas, everyone! It's a wonderful day to celebrate. I do love Christmas. Not as much as I love Thanksgiving, but I enjoy today because Dori and the kids love it and because today is the day we receive the greatest gift of love.

Soon, my family will awake to presents under the tree and Dori's famous monkey bread for breakfast. Later, we'll enjoy beef stew, roasted brussel sprouts, yeast rolls and homemade fudge pie.

Last night in a packed church, we saw unfamiliar faces. Before Mass, Kathryn told me about certain people she sees in church only on Christmas and Easter. She's intrigued by the subject, like her Dad.

I'm happy people make it to celebrate Christmas and reflect, but I'm not sure many were doing much reflecting, at least around us. Before the service, the children's choir sang lovely songs and a violinist performed Silent Night. Rather than listen, most people around us talked. Most is not an understatement. During Mass, things didn't change much ... some people continued their irreverance. Each week, some Catholics bolt after communion to beat the traffic or rush to some event, I guess. Last night was no different. Dori and the kids noticed all of this, too, which we discussed on the way home.

I wonder about the magic of Christmas. Is it gone in America? Does warming a spot in the pew for 70 minutes constitute adequate homage to God? What is adequate? Some of you reading this are probably thinking, "Gosh, Jim, they made it to church on Christmas. Cut them some slack." Absolutely, yes, I am not anyone's judge. I'm just curious. Does mere attendance make whole the genuine appreciation we have for the gift of Christmas, or should we be bringing more? Is secularism the new religion, or am I being a Scrooge on Christmas morn?

I don't have answers here, just questions. But I can't be the only one ruminating like this today.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bring It, Chuck

Our Tennessee weather has been predictably unpredictable. The other day, it was 73 degrees. A few days later, it was 9 degrees. Today, it's in the low 60s and rainy. We've had a wet December. Perhaps because of the wild swings, I've been battling the crud of late.

I've had a few windows where I felt ok. I ran three and four miles this weekend with Pepper, felt rotten on Monday and then ran five miles this afternoon after the downpour stopped. My fitness is average, though I've slipped since the Boulevard Bolt on Thanksgiving.

I haven't been as motivated to run lately, choosing rather to enjoy the break since the Nike in October. Today, in my inbox was motivation to get back at it. Chuck Hendry, Dori's pal on 11 North, sent the following CaringBridge update today:



I am feeling much better since getting off of the medications last month. After a year and a half of steroids and immune suppression drugs I finally for the first time since getting sick feel NORMAL. ...

I have even gone back to the gym and started to work out again. I have committed to running the Music City Half Marathon in April so I am in training. I hope to be participating in this event with Team In Training which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society so I will be asking for donations as we get closer to the event. I will have a Team that I will have to raise ex amount of pledges for that will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. More later!


We can't wait, Chuck ... for the race and to write you a check.

Christmas at Nana's












Photos often say it all. As much as I love the photos of our children, it's the first that has the most meaning to me this Christmas. Dori reminded me last night she was in the clinic last Christmas Eve getting her blood drawn. This morning, she is sleeping peacefully in her own bed. Photos are compliments of my brother-in-law, Stephen.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reflection

As we prepare for Christmas, real battles against blood cancers continue.

This week, I have followed the ups and downs of Ann Gregory's battle. Her week ends on a high note after yet another scare. Sigourney Cheek sent an email update about the return of a lump in her neck (from Richter's Syndrome) and the dumbfoundingly subpar care from a doctor at Sloane Kettering in NYC and her choice to be treated exclusively at Vanderbilt. Dori updated me yesterday about courageous Christian, the young man in Tennessee whose blood cancer is rare and so aggressive that it could come back in a week. Ronni's blood counts are low and she's understandably anxious and frustrated.

I've debated recently whether to shut down this blog. More of my posts now are about everyday life instead of leukemia or training for a race to help fund research. But I still think about cancer every day, or someone affected by it. I'm in a different place with this blog for sure. Dori continues to deal with the after-effects of her battle. You don't leave battles without scars, emotional and physical. I don't know one person who has survived cancer that doesn't have marks.

I've thought about starting another blog that covers all things that matter to me that aren't related to cancer, just like PJ did. But I don't have the time for another endeavor right now, at least without impacting another facet of my life. I recognize my scar is the turmoil that has been inflicted on my family and others I love or deeply respect, even while my anxiety for my family is much lower than a year ago.

Still, Run for Dori has a place in my life for influencing and connecting people and for healthy reflection - my own and others'. The show must go on.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On the Road Again

I'll be home for Christmas. But today is one more day on the road.

Praise Baby Jesus, I did run on a nice treadmill in a hotel this morning. Four smooth miles. Watching CNN Headline News isn't the same as watching the ducks play on Radnor Lake, but I'll take the four miler.

Dori, as you may know, wants to go back to work. An old friend (the Ghost of Banking Past) called to inquire if she's interested in a position for which she's well suited. Wouldn't that be a nice stocking stuffer?

Dori seems to be on the back end of a tough bug, and her strength is returning. Way to go, Hans.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Deacon Faulkner's Homily

Here's yesterday's homily from Deacon Mark Faulkner, a dear friend of ours. I love that Mark just gets to the point and is glass half full, in spirit and in practice.

So I was contemplating the readings for this Sunday and I couldn’t help but think that some people might feel a bit of a disconnect. Listen to these ... From the first reading: Glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, release to prisoners, a year of favor, I rejoice heartily. From the psalm: My spirit rejoices, call me blessed, great things for me, filled the hungry, my soul rejoices. And from the second reading: Rejoice always, give thanks, don’t quench the spirit, be preserved.

And then conversely these, just a random grab of headlines from this past week: Automakers working to reduce their ranks, Job-seekers get low-ball offers, November home sales tank, Major hotels close doors, Taxes fall short, and from Father Joe Pat Breen “Pastors see upswing in anxiety.”

Glad tidings vs. bad tidings. Liberty to captives? Liberty from debt would be nice. Release to prisoners? From prisons of fear and anxiety? A year of favor? Versus a year of recession! Rejoice heartily? Blessed? Great things? Be preserved? (I’d like my 401-k to be preserved!)

The second reading speaks of “the God of peace.” And so I ask, do you feel at peace? I hope so, but I hear the angst of the reality of those headlines in the voices and words of many people I talk to. And do you feel a sense of rejoicing? It may just be me but I sense a slightly more muted tone this Christmas.

We are in the midst of preparing to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace into the world, but are we welcoming Him into OUR world? Our personal world. Because if we do that, then we CAN, despite anything, we can be at peace. We can feel a sense of joy and rejoicing.

I always marveled at the stories of how Maximilian Kolbe smiled and stayed positive even as he was tortured and starved to death in a Nazi concentration camp. Even as he suffered and died, he was at total peace, leading other prisoners in song and prayer. He had a deep peace that caused him to be happy, no matter how terrible the circumstances.

I want that peace. I love that peace. I want you to have it, too. And guess what, it’s really pretty easy to get.

But it starts with, and has to have, silence. If we want to truly be at peace, we must immerse ourselves in rich silence at least 10 minutes everyday (or more if you are able) ... in the quiet of the deep of the night when laying awake ... or in the early morning hours before everyone else is up…with the door shut and the phone turned off in the afternoon. Seek and capture silence.

And then, in that silence, clear your mind, let everything go, deflect distracting thoughts. Use deep breathing, focus on yourself deeply breathing in life and exhaling with deep peace. And maybe, try using the Divine Mercy mantra ... simply “Jesus, I trust in you” ... Jesus, I trust in you ... Jesus, I trust in you.

And then slowly start to share the things that you care about, that you are concerned about, with Him. Talk silently with Him. Be candid. Tell the Prince of Peace what troubles you ... what you are grateful for ... and then listen in silence. He wants to enter your world.

If you do that, everyday ... you WILL rejoice at the peace He brings.

No matter what.

Church

Yesterday's second reading at Mass was timely. With all the bad news in the world and the challenges some around me are facing, the scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24) resonated.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.


Our deacon's homily, which I'll post if he shares with me, was powerful. He translated modern day life and news headlines to the staying power of all three readings.

Mighty Pepper and I ran a good three miler this morning. I was sore from Sunday's practice (I ran most of the drills with the kids), so it was slow. Thankfully, Pepper cooperated by taking it easy on the big fella. It was windy and almost 60 at 5:30 a.m., which means it will be 35 degrees in 12 hours. Winter weather in the south ...

We moved an old piano from a friend into our house yesterday. Our daughter loves playing and is gifted. Her play of Christmas songs on the electric piano has warmed the house this month. Now she gets to tickle the ivory, not plastic, with her delicate fingers. Kinda reminds me of the scripture above.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mustering Some Mustard


Dori has had a fever the last two days, not like Peggy Lee's. The good news: Hans and his stellar immune system seem to be in complete control. Dori was down for about a day with a 102 temperature and other symptoms, but seems to be getting back to normal.

Candid alert ... This week was a royal pain in the donkey's behind. Work went well, but seems like everyone I know is facing a significant challenge. Seems like, because not everyone is. Sometimes I feel like crawling in someone's skin and taking on the issue at hand. Before taking that thought seriously, I quickly realize I better get back to my own issues and just play cheerleader or tough love dad, depending on the situation.

One of this week's downers was that I didn't run once until today. I did spend an aforementioned 30 minutes on the hotel bike, but Friday morning's run was iced out. In between Will's and Kathryn's basketball games today, I decided to run seven miles, which seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, I started out way too fast, running the first 3.5 in 31 minutes. Normally, that pace is fine, but my mileage has been slipping of late and I've been Happy Fun Boy at too many meals the last week. I made six, walked a spell, and finished unimpressively.

Will's team's game this morning was exciting. We lost by three, but the kids played so much better this week than last, when we lost by 19. Last week, the kids rambo'd and failed to find their sets. This week, they played more cohesively and great on defense. We have a ways to go on offense, but I'm happy as their coach with the improvement. Kathryn's team also lost by three, but she and her buddies hustled. She was sassy in the car afterwards, talking about all the no-call fouls the other team committed. Yes, the refs weren't good, but your team lost fair and square, I told her.

So why's the mustard up top? I've already mentioned why, actually. I'm praying some of my peeps sink into some vinegar and address their challenges. I also like strong mustard and it's my blog! Have a great week everyone.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

News Worth Sharing

I've received two great e-mails today, one from leukemia survivor Lea Morrison, our favorite cancer tiger on the West Coast, and another from the folks at the Kanzius Foundation.

Lea is doing well and her donor has agreed to meet soon. She's one year post transplant and emerging into new territory. Way to go, Lea!

The Kanzius e-mail below and link to the news speaks for itself. I'm eager for even more good news, aren't you? Check out the two videos.

In the next few days and weeks we will be posting announcements and research publications that will share our excitement with all of you, our loyal friends and contributors.

We have two new videos posted today that give John's personal update, and in the near future there will be much more fantastic news. Check the website often.

And remember, money buys time. Consider an end-of- year, or holiday memorial gift now. Your gift today can change the world tomorrow. Spread the Wave!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hotel Fitness

I've been on the road workin' for a livin'. One thing that seems to be a recurring theme in the hotels is the fitness center issue.

Whenever I'm in a part of town where running just doesn't seem smart (traffic or some other reason), I hit the hotel fitness center for a short run. Problem is, the treadmills are often broken or the belt is off, which can cause back issues. So the only option often is a bike. I'm looking forward to a run in my neighborhood tomorrow.

Work is great, but stresses elsewhere are on my mind constantly. Yes, I recall being in a different place last year with Dori's illness. I haven't forgotten, trust me. I'm dealing these days with issues that are mostly out of my control. It's amazing how other people's problems or behavior can dominate your life. Hopefully, some of these things will reverse soon.

And maybe someone will fix all these broken treadmill belts in the hotels. Lord knows there are folks out there who could use the business.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

7 at 7

It was cold at 7 this morning. 25 degrees, but no wind. I left the house in four layers, knowing I wouldn't be peeling any today. I was excited about my third run this week, expecting it to be every bit as enjoyable as my four-miler with Pepper a few nights ago.

At mile one, I saw a gaggle of runners and walkers, recognizing some fellow Team in Training mates. Around mile two, I realized I needed a restroom. Fellow runners, you know the feeling. I knew there was a mini-mart at 3.5, for which I was very thankful when I arrived.

Business taken care of, I returned to the road. I named the first part of the run, Revenge of the Frozen Pizza, and got back into a running rhythm. At mile six, I saw the TNT-ers socializing and decided to stop and say hello. I saw Mark, Stephne, Sammie, Joelle and Melissa. It was good to catch up.

I finished the seven-mile run feeling good about it. I hadn't run an intermediate distance over six miles since before the Nike.



My sister's art showing Thursday evening went extremely well, despite the tough economy. Maybe 200-plus people showed, and Anne's paintings looked spectacular as always. A good bit of the proceeds will be going to the Hematology Helping Hands Clinic at VUMC. Dr. Jagasia, Dori's outpatient doctor, stopped by and told me about a blood cancer patient who has been through 18 tough months with another tough year ahead. The man just had to sell his house to cover his debts.

Dori and our family went through much last year, but we have insurance so the blow has been cushioned. Our healthcare system is both wonderful (great care, breakthroughs every day) and demeaning (pre-existing conditions). We're responsible as Americans for a good deal of the problem because many live unhealthily. That won't change until more people learn personal responsibility or get active.

That said, I don't know anyone that doesn't think now is the time for some sensible healthcare reform.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Rainbows

For the first time since spring 2007, all of Dori's blood counts are normal. Dori called me this morning from VUMC with the news that her "nemesis," platelets, are 150. WBC hit 7.2, while RBC hit 39, I believe. She weighs 125, and I couldn't be happier to announce my girl's weight in the blogosphere, though I might get a cussin' later. She was tiny and frail not long ago.

I'm not surprised about the platelets. Most of Dori's bruises are gone or fading. She still has a semi-whopper from the infamous shower fall more than a year ago. I'll never forget Nurse Blanche telling me as I arrived at VUMC that morning, "Now everything is going to be alright, but Dori fell in the shower this morning."

Lemme go Paul Harvey on everyone now and tell you the rest of the story. On that morning at 6 a.m., an exhausted, weakened Dori passed out and slammed to the floor of her shower, remained unconscious for an unknown period of time, woke up disoriented, and then crawled back into bed and decided not to tell anyone. Her entire right side was bruised and she had other bruises elsewhere. I was so alarmed I rounded up a group of friends and family to help post a 24/7 watch on Dori. I'm pretty sure today's good news, delivered by Dori, is part of the beautiful rainbow my Aunt Renee was talking about.

I tell you all of this, good friends, because every milestone is worth sharing. Every moment - even when difficult - is worth appreciating.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Furthermore

Several Run for Dori followers, some of whom are linked on this blog, are exceptional writers. These authors write clearly, confidently and with care.

Most everyone I know, yours truly included, is prone to butchering our language occasionally. Notice I didn't say "to occasionally butcher the language," which is a split infinitive. I could have said, "Most everyone I know butchers our language occasionally," and just have been done with it. That's the hell in which writers with pride (see anal-retentive) live. Applause please for not ending a sentence with a preposition.

Two recurring hatchet jobs I hear often make me wince. The first is most weathermen's misuse of "further." The cold front is not further to our north; it is farther to our north. Farther addresses distance, while further connotes degree. The second is the less-fewer issue. Tonight on the radio, a sports columnist for ESPN who used to write for our local paper said words to the effect, "He's got less options, less recruits and will make less money." The less money thing is spot on, but dude, it's fewer options and fewer recruits. Fewer is for quantity, while less is for quality and that which is unquantifiable. Don't get me started on all the kids who use double negatives. Unfortunately, our schools seem to condone slang and misuse of the language. Did I just say "dude?"

Back to Blood Cancer Land, Dori's visit to the eye doctor today went well. Radiation and chemo can cause long-term challenges, like osteoporosis and glaucoma. Dori's eyes weathered the storm well. She was jazzed when she called me today. I'm happy for her.

Dori has another doctor's visit tomorrow. I'm about to pray for good news there, right after I read more of the book she picked up for me last night at the library - Educating Peter by Lettie Teague. It's an appealing book to wine enthusiasts and wine novices because it describes wine appreciation and understanding with a depth that appeals to both audiences. Here, here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Sister Is a Good Egg

Local friends, on Thursday, December 4 I hope you can join my sister Anne and her friends in supporting the Hematology Helping Hands Fund of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center at VUMC. Event details are available at Tennessean.com, and you can preview Annie's work here.


We're proud of Anne, who is a maestro with brush in hand. And we know you want one of her paintings. Like Veruca Salt, we know you want one now, but you'll have to wait until the 4th. Yes, we're always making things difficult. See you there.

Boulevard Bolt!



Yes, it's 4 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving, and I'm blogging. Nice life, right?

Yesterday was terrific, everything Thanksgiving should be. Thanksgiving is and always will be my favorite holiday. Hearty food, crisp air and giving thanks add up to exciting times.

My morning began at the Boulevard Bolt, a five-mile race on Belle Meade Boulevard that attracts nearly 8,000 runners each year. Proceeds support agencies that help feed the hungry, something I encourage everyone to make a priority in these difficult times. I train on the Bolt route occasionally because it's so picturesque with gentle rolls. The suburb used to be a horse farm in the 1800s; today, mansions grace the four-lane road divided by a sizeable median of manicured grass and proud trees.

Before the race, I saw some favorite peeps, including Jessica, my running partner at the Nike Women's race in San Francisco, Cary, Dori's nurse practitioner at Vanderbilt, and Billy Ray, a former co-worker from the late 1990s. Yes, Billy Ray ... we're in the south ... but Billy Ray is no redneck. I told Cary I had said a prayer of thanks for her and all the staff at VU the night before. Without them, Dori would not be here this Thanksgiving.

Conditions at the start couldn't have been more perfect - 40 degrees, no wind, sunny and low dewpoint. Truth be told, I'd never run well at the Bolt because of injury or I wasn't in a training cycle. I also had some leftover frustration from the Nike, and wanted to prove I can race, not just run. I even made a spicy new iPod mix, determined to drop the hammer and run a respectable time. My goal was to best 43 minutes, maybe even get close to 42. An 8:30/mile pace would be good, but everything depended on how I felt.

The first mile at the Bolt is all about not turning an ankle. Walkers and slow runners who should be at the pack's back cause issues for the racing bunch. Because of that, I probably ran the first mile at an energy-expending nine-minute pace, dodging and weaving the entire way. Things started to open up near Leake Avenue, and I found a very good rhythm. Question answered ... I felt great. My fast, younger friend Kevin joined me for a half mile before going after his sub-40:00 minute goal.

At mile three, I began to feel I might have hit my stride too early. I was probably running 8:00/miles, maybe faster between miles one and three. I also had to pee. As the excuses to back down and find shrubbery by a mansion grew, I thought of my friends still battling blood cancer, and said fudge to that. I could pee and back down in 15 minutes. I settled into about an 8:15 pace. No Garmin, just guessing.

When I couldn't punch it in the last mile, I knew I'd raced too fast too early. But I did maintain my pace. The clock at the finish said 43:48, but I knew my time was better because I started a bit after the gun. I guessed I'd run a 42:30, maybe better, but I'd have to wait until the results were posted later in the day.

My time was better! 41:48, an 8:22 pace. My best five-miler the last three years is a 39:30 on a hilly course. I'll take the 41:48 because I did run too fast early and I'd run three of four days before the race, including the two days prior. The 17 miles I've run this week have been a lot of fun ... 5.8 at Percy Warner, two three-milers with Pepper in our neighborhood and at Radnor, and yesterday's race.

After the race, Jessica told me she ran a 39:55. She's running the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis next week, and was excited about her good training run. Kevin ran a 38 something, while friend Bert, who is running the Dallas Marathon in a few months, ran a 40:36. I finished 43 of 93 in my age group, 363 of all men and 484 overall. A good number of finishers don't have chip times, so my placement is definitely lower, but I bested my goals and that's all that matters.

Dori ran yesterday morning and then helped the kids and I bag leaves. I smoked a turkey stuffed with herbs, apple and onion, while Dori made great sides, including a herbilicious sausage stuffing, tasty roasted brussel sprouts and carrots, a snappy cranberry almond salad, rolls and a pumpkin pie. It was delish! As we ate, we went around the table and said what each of us is thankful for ... one blessing at a time for 10 minutes. We kept coming up with good things. Family and health were recurring themes. We are so blessed.

That's the same feeling I had as I read some letters I wrote to my Mom between 1989-1992 when I was in the Navy. Mom, who read them recently after putting on the shelf long ago, shared them yesterday. As the turkey smoked and Will shot baskets, I listened to mellow music, sipped on an ale and read my old, broken prose. Much of it was telling about where I was in life and how I was growing up (there was certainly upside at that age!). Other parts were embarrassing. I've read half the letters and will choke down the rest this weekend.

This was long, but that's what happens at 4 a.m. when the coffee's been on and you feel good about things.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Civics Test


A friend sent me this link to a quiz on American civics. I thought most of the questions were relevant, some a bit whimsical.

That said, I took the quiz, encourage you to do the same and to share the link with civic-minded folk like yourself. According to the masterminds, the average score was 49%. My score was so-so, 26 of 33 for 79%. Tell us where you stack up, if you are so bold. Maybe we'll have some folks who scored 90% or higher. If so, you should be proud you paid attention in class and/or are well-read. Unfortunately, most Americans know the names of contestants on Dancing with the Stars and not much else.

Here's better news about a decline in the rate of cancer in the U.S. for the first time in years.

I'll end on that cheery note, and spare you my strong thoughts about more Big Government bailouts. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, which is always a good time to count our many blessings. I hope you enjoy it with your loved ones in your own traditional way.

... OK, I had to add the following. Talk about a Thanksgiving downer. C'mon, parents and school adminstrators ... Your paranoia and pursuit of political correctness sends the exact opposite message Thanksgiving is intended to convey. Perhaps they resent President Lincoln’s official declaration of “… the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Isn't this the meaning of Thanksgiving, even if the accuracy of events isn't easily verifiable? It seems like some radicals are intent on squashing every tradition.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving Retreat

Dori, the kids and I spent the weekend at our mountain oasis - Beersheba Springs - with my Mom and her husband Dan and my sister Anne and her husband Stephen. We celebrated Thanksgiving early at the cabin of generous friends, Rosalie and John. I want to retire in Beersheba and maybe one day Dori will say, "I do, too." Right now I get sweet "maybe's" from my girl, so I can only dream, save, pray and wait patiently.



What's so great about Beersheba? The air and the serenity, for starters. When we want to reconnect and recharge, we go to Beersheba. Dori traditionally works on a puzzle (this year's effort pictured) or reads. We also love being with our peeps. Between the laughter and friendly ribbing, we always eat some seriously outstanding food from Chefs Rachel and Anne. Might have a beverage or two, which just tastes better when your peering into vast overlooks of1,000-foot dropoffs.

This time, the kids and I, with Pepper pulling the whole way, did three mini-hikes, with Dori joining us on two of them. Dan roasted some chestnuts on the fire, while Mom outdid herself with the Thanksgiving spread, which I complemented with the best pinot noir I've ever had. At least that's what Mom said.

On the way home in the car, the four of us talked about heaven and earth. I liked what Dori said about heaven. Essentially, we're all going to do our best to get there and then one by one it will be like an airport greeting when the next family member arrives. Dori says airport greetings are when she feels tremendously positive emotions from the excitement of reconnecting with a loved one.

This afternoon, I took my recharged batteries to Percy Warner Park for a run around the 5.8-mile loop. The first 3.3 have some challenging ascents. Knowing I had processed a lot of butter and heavier carbs this weekend, I made sure my pace was modest. At the top of the park, I realized my batteries were full and I was underperforming. I took the last 2.5 fairly hard, maybe at 90%. I could have run faster, but I was just plain enjoying the feeling of a good run in perfect conditions (52 degrees, slight breeze, cloudy with little humidity and dewpoint). I ran the loop in 55 minutes, a 9:28/mile pace.

Compliments of my Aunt Renee, here are some recent encouraging articles about the inportant story unfolding in the world of John Kanzius, whose foundation is doing great work.

Arnold Palmer supports Kanzius
Kanzius keeps control of technology

Lastly, with all the economic gloom and unhappiness in today's world, check out this 60 Minutes story about Rex by Leslie Stahl, who also did the piece on John Kanzius. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


Watch CBS Videos Online

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pleases

Dori had lunch yesterday with her friend Chuck, a fellow leukemia survivor. They didn't recognize each other because they had hair. Once they did, they moved past the humorous moment and reconnected as you would expect.

Speaking of hair, this has been a tough week for my girl. Dori's haircut earlier this week was emotional. Women can have a hair thing, which I understand, and Dori's feisty hair post-chemo reminds her how she's changed physically. After her battle to survive, she weighs less, still has some stiffness in her joints and deals with the hair thing. Her healing is ongoing, both physically and mentally. Most of the physical recovery has occurred, but there's still more water to paddle.

Understandably, Dori has some leftover anger, resentment and moments of sadness, like many cancer survivors. My only response is to tell her I love her and for her to keep venting positively. I concur her feelings are normal and remind her of all the things at which she excels. There are so many things.

Cancer is a physical battle, but it's also quite cerebral. The brain must process much. Just visit any cancer blog, and you know what I'm talking about.

As I ran yesterday morning in the cold, I thought of little. It was cold, but I was warm, in a good place as I found my pace. I realized after a few miles I was thinking about "pleases" to various entities, some of which were serious, some not. The requests included:

Please don't put up any more Christmas trees or lights until after Thanksgiving.
Please don't bail out any more failed businesses with our tax money.
Please be with my girl as she fights to be convinced she is our George Bailey.

As always, thank you for listening.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Food Good, TV No Good



Kudos to my sister, Anne, for the wonderful dinner I had last weekend at her nouveau pad. Hats off to her husband, Stephen, for more captivating photography.

The dinner was simple but scrumptious - a grilled pork tenderloin in an Argentinian chimichurri marinade and sauce, tender brussel sprouts halved and roasted in olive oil, kosher salt and pepper, and a parmesan polenta that would make you do backflips. The brussel sprouts were like healthy fries - crunchy on the outside and tender in the middle, much like many in our family come to think of it. We complimented the fare with a delicious pinot noir from Sonoma County. Last night's chicken enchiladas that Dori made were quite awesome, too. Told you we are food snobs!

So excessive TV leads to unhappiness? That article reminded me of the bumper sticker, "Kill Your TV." I would follow these orders, if it weren't for college football, quality programming on PBS and those always-interesting nature shows. Also, the stickers are usually on rusty cars from the 70s and the drivers tend to resemble the Uni-Bomber. But point taken, University of Maryland scholars.

Tonic

Whenever I have a crummy day, and yesterday was crummy, it's good to run as soon as possible. This morning at 5, I ran five miles on a clear, cold morning, all bundled up. The 30 degree temperature felt good as I let go of the "bad energy" that built up yesterday.

Watching the sun come up as I finished was especially refreshing. There is peace in running, and I'm glad I continue to find it. Carpe diem.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shackles Removed


Last night, I went to a local sports bar with my favorite curmudgeon, Al, to watch the Vanderbilt-Kentucky football game. A Vandy win would make them bowl eligible for the first time since 1982. For historical perspective, 1982 was Ronald Reagan's second year in office, Loverboy was hot and my acne was known to flare on occasion.

While Al talked about firing VU Coach Bobby Johnson if we lost (Al is a great guy who says crazy things), I locked in on the team's impressive effort and will. VU dominated the first half on the way to a 24-7 halftime lead. Of course, Vandy always likes to make things interesting. With two minutes left, the score was 31-24 Dores with UK driving to tie. On fourth down from VU's 23, Vandy's star cornerback, D.J. Moore, picked off a pass, sealing the win.

When I arrived home at 10:30, Dori and the kids were wide awake. Dori was surfing the message boards, perhaps seeking confirmation she wasn't dreaming. Will looked like he wanted to go throw the football. I watched the game again, and then drifted in to a place I've been wanting to go for a very long time - the Land of Late Fall Contentment.

Vandy's win locks them in to a bowl and 3rd place finish in the grueling SEC East. One more win assures the team of a winning season and two more would put them in a very good bowl where the weather is warm (Outback in Tampa) or environment is controlled (Chick-Fil-A in Atlanta's Georgia Dome). No matter the destination, book this: The Family Von Trapp will be there.

And Dori was here to see it all.

Friday, November 14, 2008

'Why Not?'

Kathryn's and Will's discussion/debate/argument last night over the electric piano reminded me of Dori's favorite commercial of all time. Not quite a Friday Night Flashback, but certainly worth some blog time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Success at Gilda's Club

Three months ago, we asked our children if they would visit Gilda's Club once a week to discuss cancer in a group of their peers. Last night, the wonderful folks at GC honored all the children in front of their parents with laminated "graduation" certificates that said "You Did It!"

After that, the kids were given gorgeous handmade quilts that honored their individuality. Will received a quilt of his favorite things on earth - frogs. Kathryn was given a beautiful red quilt with dalmatians. I've never seen them smile that much for such a long period of time. Will said he'd like to go back to Gilda's, rating it an 8 of 10 this morning in the car. Kathryn gave it a 9.5. I'm in with a 10. Our kids are growing up.

Dori and I talked awhile last night before we went to sleep. I know she's anxious for a return to complete normalcy, which includes getting back to work in a part-time job. She's interviewed some, though I'm fine with her networking more and continuing recovery. While she's better physically, she still has slow days and work could be rough some days right now.

Dori doesn't take rejection well, and that's what this job market is if you're 100% healthy. My advice has been to enjoy today and look forward to tomorrow. God's plan for her has been a miracle unfolding before our eyes, I've shared with her, and He'll bring you to something special and meaningful. I think that helped my favorite gal, who gave me a wonderful hug before I went to work this morning.

I ran five miles in the dark tonight. It rained some, but not too hard. I thought about what my next race might be. A friend recently told me about a marathon in Oregon. The Newport Marathon caps at 800 people, is relatively flat along a scenic river and in a part of the country I've always wanted to see. It's in late May, a nice time of year to run. The Seattle Marathon is in late June on a hillier course. I'm 95% sure I'm going to run the flat Tom King Half Marathon in March, but where am I going to run my first full? I like flatter, cooler courses.

Thoughts, fellow runners? Maybe I'll put up my first blog poll if some feedback comes in ...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gratitude

I received one of the best e-mails of the year this afternoon from Lea Morrison, a web friend we admire from afar. Fewer people are more inspirational than Lea, who is nearly one year post transplant. Wonderful news, Lea!

Lea advocates, communicates honestly and freely, and beams with "gratitude, hope and love," as she ended her CaringBridge post today. Her positive outlook and update included a link to a New York Times story about a German man who donated his bone marrow to a young business executive in Texas who had leukemia. I won't ruin the story, which captures man's gratitude and love for his fellow man. Read on, good friends.

As I read this wonderful story, I thought about "Hans," Dori's 24-year-old donor. As most of you know, we won't get to meet Hans contingent on his willingness to meet her and until Dori reaches two years post transplant. I thought today about the 11 million people on the NMDP registry and how important it is for more people between 18-60 to join them. Spread the word, folks. It's easy to register and your life may wind up being as fulfilling as Klaus Kaiser, the selfless German bicycle repairman below on the left who saved James Chippendale's life.



I didn't run this weekend, but took Pepper Saturday morning to wish some Team in Training friends well on their last training run. They were running an easy six in chilly temps before next weekend's big race in San Antonio. Good luck, ladies, and thank you for the fundraising for LLS! I ran a moderately paced five miler tonight after work in the dark. I loved the 27 degree dewpoint and temperature in the high 40s. Wasn't the dewpoint in the low 70s a few months ago? That's change I can believe in.

Dinner was even better. Dori made a wonderful wheat pasta with crushed tomatoes, EVOO, oregano, chick peas and shredded parm. Today was a great food day, in fact. A Trader Joe's opened near us a few days ago, and I have some new favorites foods, including McCann's Irish Oatmeal and dried blueberries. The McCann's was so much smoother and better tasting than the other store brands I'm used to, reminding me of my switch from mass produced American beer to microbrews.

Cheers to Trader Joe's for its affordable, healthy food offerings.

Cheers to Klaus Kaiser for his compassion and James Chippendale for his unending gratitude.

And cheers to Lea Morrison for being a courageous advocate who inspires so many.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mind and Body

"These fish are a sign of God's love for me because they have lived for a long time."

That's the sign our daughter has put next to her goldfish bowl. What a precious statement that says a lot about her. Kathryn and her brother, for obvious reasons, have a view of life expectancy that many other children understandably don't.

Several people have told me how sorry they are our children have had to go through Dori's illness. That's a normal feeling ... who wouldn't wonder such a thing? My view is a little different than some. While I acknowledge that feeling, I thought more about how we were going to deal with Dori's leukemia as individuals and as a family. Obviously, I've had to prepare myself and my children to deal with scenarios. Kathryn was direct throughout, talking through it much like I did. Will was less inquisitive but his ears were sponging up everything.

What I see now is a daughter who appreciates life. Cherishes might even be the word. Celebrating two goldfish that have lived three months is something I never would have done. As a kid, I remember flushing several fish down the toilet, thinking, "Oh well," before I went and harassed my sisters. Her sign also tells me she's celebrating her mother's recovery and return to normalcy. That's cool. Now I know why I've been changing the bowl water every day since summer.

Speaking of celebrating, I received good blood results from my annual physical. This is in stark contrast to a letter I received five years ago that contained three indelible words, "You are obese." My cholesterol was also high. This month's report was much better, with everything in the normal range. Both HDL and LDL cholesterol were good, despite my affinity for cheese. The only thing that popped out was my white blood cell count at 4.5, right at the lower end of "normal." I assume the reason is my recent battles with bronchitis and a mini-virus.

So running is good for the body. What a concept! Running is also good for the mind. This week, I read in a running magazine how an 86-year-old woman runner would be fine if she were to die running. Hmmmm. Some friends and I were talking at lunch today when we do our best thinking - driving, walking, exercising, etc. Of course, I said, "Running."

This week, I've run four times - five, three, four and four more miles tonight. On each run, I had clear thoughts about family, work and other parts of my life. Running is a no-brainer because it's so good for the brain.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Canine Runner

I avoid taking Pepper for runs in the summer and early fall. It's just too hot for our heavy-coated four-legged friend. Now is the time to take him, however.

Before 5, I woke, checked the weather (perfect 43 degrees, no wind) and put the leash on Mighty Pepper. The stars were brilliant as we headed out the driveway. Pepper's early mission, it seemed, was to mark the entire neighborhood. I think I'll get him some calling cards. Maybe that will solve the problem. Our first mile was slow, because of Pepper's scent-marking quest and because I was working out some soreness in my left achilles.

Loosened up, we picked up the pace a little after the first mile. Fellow runners understand our clothing and gear are important to us, and I'm no different. I love running when it's in the low 40s and I can "double-shirt" it. I wore a long-sleeved breathable shirt underneath and cotton t-shirt over it. The long-sleeved shirt was part of our race packet from this year's Tom King half marathon, and it's the best shirt I own. It looks good, and just feels right. Since it was pitch black outside, wearing it was pretty much about feeling right.

If dogs could smile, Pepper beamed. He wagged his tail often on our three-miler, and continually after the run. That's "thank you" in dog. As we were finishing, the sun was rising. Running at daybreak in perfect weather, with your happy dog, doing something you love, on election day when we have the freedom to vote ... how can anyone go wrong with that?

Monday, November 3, 2008

I'll Huff and I'll Puff

I have a cancer vent from last weekend and an election vent.

A 60-year-old woman that Dori visited at VUMC earlier this fall died Friday. The aunt of a mom at our school, she was a breast cancer survivor and was battling blood cancer. After a visit to the ICU earlier this fall, she recovered then declined rapidly.

Sunday at church, our family saw a five-year-old girl we know who is battling blood cancer. Wearing a cap, she walked with her sister in communion line. She was smiling and looked beautiful, but the sight was a lot to process. The emotions I felt were nothing like what Dori experienced. I looked over as she buried her cries into her hands. The young girl's parents, who we know and think a lot of, smiled at me as they passed. I acknowledged them with a wink and pat.

Cancer deaths and family upheaval tick me off every time. I had to edit that sentence to clean it up, but I won't edit this next one. If cancer had nuts, it'd be tired of me kicking them. ... On to the one cheerier thing of the evening.

Basketball practice tonight was "awesome," according to my son. I thought it went fine, but I was glad to hear his recap. The first practice is always the most interesting. Things haven't changed since I coached 14 years ago: There's a cat-herding element to coaching eight- and nine-year-old boys. We seem to have a good group. Most listened and all worked on things we were "coaching up." I'm glad we're underway.

Most RFD loyalists know I don't do politics on this blog. That said, I share the following about this and every election. No party or person, in my mind, has the "correct or best" answers, despite statements, media reporting and marketing to the contrary. I have my views, just like you do, and believe elections are important. I think I've voted in every election - primary and general - since I turned 18.

Like I mentioned in my review of The Shack last month, I believe the ultimate answers come from God, not government. That holds true for whatever faith is your coffee - Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, whatever. There's a lot of good stuff in those coffees, if you avoid the more radical flavors. Like Dori and I discussed last night at dinner with friends, political parties and their candidates are temporal; God's plan is eternal. Seems like a whole lot of folks these days aren't down with that.

I have no faith in how government will help you, me or anyone achieve eternal life. Maybe some candidate or consultant will make such an outrageous promise in a future campaign. I hope not; some might decide to believe it. I do hope everyone votes. God bless America for that.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Joy of Running

While Dori was on a plane yesterday, the kids and I went to the local park, which has a one-third mile loop. Will brought his bike, and Kathryn decided to join me for some of my run. I ran 12 laps, four very enjoyable miles for several reasons.

Inside the loop, families enjoyed watching their little ones play soccer. Actually, as you know, it's more like herdball, but it is fun to watch the spectacle and passion of five-year-old soccer.

The weather was even better. It was 60 with no humidity. One half of the loop was cool (sun behind me into a slight northerly breeze and some shade), while the other half was warm (directly into the rising sun). My cotton shirt had four sweat spots that Kathryn astutely noted had formed a "smiley face." My sweat must have known how I was feeling.

It's easy to find a zone running in the fall. That zone may be how much easier it is to run faster, if that's your desire. My zone yesterday was enjoying simple exercise. I also relished watching my children and others enjoy the the freedom we have in this country to play.

Dori's home after a wonderful trip to Seattle. We missed her and wanted her back with us. These fall trips she's taken - to Charlotte, Sante Fe, San Francisco and the Wine Country, and Seattle - have been good for her and us. Good for her because she's living and good for us because we get to see her enjoy herself.

Tomorrow is Will's first basketball practice. His coach better have his act together. That would be me, by the way. Yes, after a 14-year hiatus from coaching youth basketball, I'm going to dust off the whistle and coach again. Winning 3rd and 4th grade basketball is actually not a high priority ... embracing the team concept, honing fundamentals, playing hard and having a good time are. Check back with me if we go 0-10. :^)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Doogie

You might want to get a tissue before watching this story about Doogie Weiks. Inspiration and love is all around us.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Seattle Siesta

Dori's in Seattle with her high school buddy, Erika. She's having a ball. The kids and I have spoken to her twice since she left. Actually, we've just listened to her laugh. On both calls, she was laughing uncontrollably, tears flowing. I think she thinks Erika is funny.

While out for dinner tonight, the kids and I saw some families from our school. I mentioned Dori is in Seattle and one woman in the healthcare field got this look of dread, knowing Seattle is home to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. No, no, I said; it's quite the opposite ... she's there for fun.

Yesterday, I had my annual physical. All is well, it would appear. My resting pulse is 47 and BP is 124/72. Honestly, I've not felt quite right since the bronchitis started in September and flared a few weeks ago. Earlier this week, I battled something viral, staying home from work on Monday. What's odd is Sunday afternoon I breezed through the 5.8-mile loop in Percy Warner, and Monday morning I couldn't get out of bed. Today, I feel fine. Whatever. I did get my flu shot yesterday.

While at the doctor, two young African-American women drew my blood. As I rolled up my sleeve, I saw my purple Team in Training bracelet that I wear along with a yellow LiveStrong bracelet. The look down reminded me to go to work. I told the women about Dori, how she survived with the help of an unknown perfect match donor and then explained the odds for any African-American that gets diagnosed with blood cancer. They were unaware of the NMDP program, but took down the information and promised to get on the Registry. Thank you, ladies.

In the interest of promoting good cancer blog vibes, here are a few dogs finding a moment of zen. I shared these the other day with PJ, who along with other cancer survivors and patients plans to return as a dog with fewer cares, a grand idea. The first is my favorite.






Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blog Thoughts

I called PJ Sunday, something I've been meaning to do for some time. We had a good talk. She and I have several things in common (cancer bloggers, we're direct and detailed, love the outdoors, from a family of runners, etc.). PJ and Dori, however, are both survivors, and they connected instantly. Same experiences, same wavelength. I'm glad we called her ... We have a kindred spirit and friend in Rhode Island.

One thing I posed to PJ was when she thought one might cease maintaining a blog. She recently started another blog for "Things Not Related to Cancer," believe it or not a category on our $25,000 Pyramid. I've thought about doing the same, but I'm not there yet and may not go there.

While maintaining this blog can be challenging, I recognize what continues to drive my blogging. Education to save lives is just huge for me. One thing I didn't share, but planned to, from my San Francisco experience was how many Asian-American women were running for Team in Training. That was impressive. Those women are driven to help others. After the race, I met two nice Hispanic-Americans from southern California at an Alexander Valley winery. They didn't know how dire things can be for any member of their community that gets diagnosed with blood cancer. Hopefully, they are following through to register on the NMDP. Are you registered? Please tell me yes.

Of course, I still bristle when I hear about another blood cancer diagnosis. Shoot, any cancer diagnosis. That's still fuel for my blog fire. I recognize there are times I want to close this chapter of our lives, not to pretend it didn't happen but just because we're enjoying normalcy so much. Then I think of Ann in Houston (a daily occurrence) and the others soon to experience a similar battle. There's a new patient at Vanderbilt, a 16-year-old named Christian who looks like an amazing young man. I don't know him, of course, but I know what he and his family are going through. Dori and I used to live in Pleasant View when we first married. Hence, the constant blood cancer connections that remain or are made.

Besides being a chronicle for our journey, Run for Dori will remain a place to educate often and vent occasionally. The connections have helped people, and I can't lose sight of that. Even when I want to take a break, which I've been doing lately. And that's OK. Oh yes, Friday Night Flashbacks came to its merciful end last Friday. The blog, however, must go on.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More San Fran Photos

Fisherman's Wharf Tourists

Escape from Alcatraz

Cutie-Pie

The Infamous Trolley










New Friends from Northern Virginia




Golden Gate













On the Deck of Old Crocker Inn



Time for Wine

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Wine Country


Yes, it's wonderful to be home with the kids. I'll post more photos later.

Race results were posted earlier this week, and here's where the dust settled. My personal worst time for a half marathon (2:17:02) netted:

- 10.27/mile pace, 40 seconds per mile slower than my previous worst half
- 34/72 among men 40-44
- 198/580 among all men
- 2,651 among 11,540 half marathon finishers

Dori and I drove part of the course Monday before heading to the Wine Country. She gasped as we drove the hills at Miles 6 and 8.5. Honestly, it made me feel better to drive the course and experience the inclines that way. It was also great because Dori and I were able to experience the beauty of the course.


Dori and I ate a late lunch at Thai Time in Cloverdale, about 90 minutes north of San Francisco. Dori was skeptical of Thai food, but had a conversion Monday. It was the best Thai I've ever eaten. We checked in to The Old Crocker Inn, then headed to the Dry Creek Valley to sample wines. Reds no longer agree with Dori post transplant, but she sipped a little white. We visited Quivira (hit and miss), organic producer Michel-Schlumberger (pricey but very good reds) and Stryker-Sonoma (nice visuals, weak wines) in Alexander Valley.


A highlight of the first day was a visit to Locals, which samples nine micro-wineries from the area, in tiny, picturesque Geyserville. I sampled four whites and three pinot noirs, and was simply blown away. The pricing and quality were outstanding. Afterwards, we ate at Santi, which served some tasty Northern Italian. My chicken over soft polenta with figs, garlic and onions was terrific.


The next morning, we enjoyed a marvelous waffle, fruit and bacon breakfast with unfiltered apple juice. Dori decided to get a massage, while I peeled off to sight-see and fish the Russian River. I caught a small trout, smallmouth bass and an unidentified species before heading back to find a very relaxed, ache-free Dori. We ventured out again and sampled some wines at Hawkes (excellent 2004 cabernet sauvignon and a nice chardonnay) and Field Stone (average), then grabbed a bite at upscale Jimtown Store. Dori had a white bean vinaigrette salad while I had a hearty chili with tender pork and beef. The food reminded me of the cuisine at Marche in East Nashville.

I proposed to Dori that we take out more food from Jimtown, grab my favorite white from Locals (Portalupi biancho fusion) and enjoy dinner on the Old Crocker deck with a view of the sunset over the Dry Creek Valley. "I love that idea," she said. We ate a ham and butternut squash gratin and crisp cole slaw. I added a hard salami that was stellar, and we finished with a chocolate chip cookie.

We could have enjoyed a few more days in the Wine Country, but we decided to act mature, rise early this morning and head east to bail out the grandparents. An oil tanker, unfortunately, collided with a car near the Oakland Airport, our destination, which made the trip much longer than we had planned. But we had allowed for something like this and made our flight on time. Meanwhile, some state workers probably are still cleaning up some of the 8,600 gallons of gas on I-880 and repaving where the freeway melted. This disaster forced us to re-route through some tough neighborhoods in Oakland, which didn't impress.

But we'll soon forget Oakland. The power of Wine Country memories will simply be too pleasantly overwhelming.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More Race Details

Dori's napping after a great lunch at L'Osteria del forno in North Beach in Little Italy. Wonderful Northern Italian cuisine that I'll highlight later.

So today's run was a toughie. That happens. At miles 8 and 10, the only thing I cared about was finishing and getting off the course. Too bad, because the course was spectacularly scenic.

My Team in Training Teammates and I arrived at the start 90 minutes before the start. I felt surprisingly good, despite many trips to the port-a-potty. After the gun, Jessica, Lisa and I ran together the first four miles. Jessica was running her fifth full marathon, while Lisa was running her first half. Both are young and strong. We ran the first two miles easy, taking care to avoid the many walkers on the course. They dotted the streets from Union Square through the Financial District to The Embarcadero, home to many of the piers. I looked for Dori as we passed through the Fisherman's Wharf. She saw me, but I missed her.

We hit a few hills, steep but short, then ran through Fort Mason and the Marina District. I was enjoying the scenery. We entered the Presidio National Historic Park and made our way to the Golden Gate Bridge, so impressive in the distance. It was at this point I started to realize my body wasn't so happy. I began to labor. Lisa looked great and took off like a shot out of a cannon. Jessica and I stayed on our 9:30s.

When we reached "the hill" at six miles, Jess asked how I was. "I'm OK, I'll be fine," I said. We ran under the bridge, and Jess actually pushed me twice to help me up the incline. She finally went ahead, as I tried with all my might not to stop. I didn't stop, but I was running in molasses up the steep one-mile hill. Finally, I made it, but my running buddies were well ahead now. I was on my own. The descent went well, and I regrouped for the next hill, which wasn't supposed to be as tough. But it was, and long, too. After a Gatorade break, I walked a quarter mile. One lady gave me a look of disappointment. "Lady," I thought, "You have no idea how disappointing it is not to be running right now."

Perhaps the best view of the race was the run downhill through Lincoln Park to the Pacific Ocean. Even in pain, I could appreciate that view. On the flats in Sutro Heights Park, I began to feel woozy and chilled. My color wasn't right, nor was my breathing. I kept running, hoping for some boost or help. An tall Asian girl next to me tripped and fell, with both knees hitting the aggregate. The crowd yelled in unison. They felt her pain, which had to be immense.

I thought, "I'm not stopping again. The tough hills are gone." But nothing was in reserves. Damn. Help. And there she was. Dori arrived, fresh off the shuttle. She started jogging with me, coaching me up. I told her I was in trouble. She said, "I'll run with you." I said, "How about on the course? I need you."

Coat and purse in hand, she joined me. I felt better, but labored to Mile 11. I told her I needed a break. I didn't tell her vomiting was possible. Queesy and chilled, I walked another quarter mile before uttering a no-no word. That's when we started up again at a slow pace. Others around us were also laboring, a few like me. Maybe they had bronchitis, too.

The end of the race was welcome. Unfortunately, a race official spotted Dori and wouldn't let her cross the finish line after her impressive 2.5 miles. I received the Tiffany necklace and gave it to her over the fence. I gathered myself and started grabbing whatever they handed me. I ate and drank, happy to keep things down. I coughed and hacked hard for about an hour, before that spell finally subsided.

So I crossed in 2:21. Chip time is probably going to be four minutes faster. I've never run this slowly and now have a PW (personal worst) by eight minutes. My other half marathons were between 1:58 and 2:09. It is what it is, and I'm not going to beat myself up. The lasting memory will be of Dori helping me finish a terrible race with respect and showing her own grit by fighting back from the depths last year. What more can a husband ask for? I also disrespected no one. Mile Six was hell, but I scaled it. I could have quit the race, but didn't. I probably won't run that slowly for a long time.

Dori and I returned to the hotel, cleaned up and headed to lunch. We laughed while noshing on polenta with gruyere cheese. Dori ate a roasted potato and carrot dish with rosemary and roasted zucchini with basil. My lunch was perfect ... two slices of pizza - ham with artichoke hearts and a very good Italian sausage with mushrooms - with a few Anchor Steams.

Coach Stephne called and told me Lisa and Jessica had two very different days. Lisa ran a 1:56 half, which is outstanding. I knew she had it in her. She's tiny but strong. Jess struggled, throwing up at mile 13. Stephne found her walking and groggy around mile 18. Jess decided to cut over, taking off six miles. She removed her timing chip and finished 20 brutal miles. I haven't seen her yet, but I want to give her a hug. Jess and I trained a lot together, and I know she'll be disappointed.

You never know what will happen at a marathon. The 2008 Nike Women's Marathon is now in the books. Fifteen minutes slower than I would have liked, mission accomplished.

My Best Running Friend

Lots of good things happened today. Let's go ahead and get the bad stuff out of the way in this short race recap.

Bronchitis, antibiotics and running don't mix. Today's run was rough as hell. I ran with Lisa and Jessica, two Team in Training women I like and respect. All of us felt good at the start. The first three miles were OK at a 9:30/mile pace.

I could tell I was going to have a tough day when I had to work to hold that modest pace from miles three through six. At the six-mile marker, I felt like I normally feel at about Mile 11 of a half marathon. Not good. Then came the first major hill that started at the Golden Gate Bridge. I made it, but it took a huge toll.

Another big hill greeted runners at around mile 8. Things got worse. I had little strength to run these hills, which were hard as advertised. I had to walk for the first time at 8.5. I haven't walked in a race in a long time. That sucked.

When I arrived at 10.5, I wasn't in a good place. Thankfully, Dori had just gotten off the shuttle and saw me. She decided to run with me at my slow pace, which was a huge morale boost. At 11, I told Dori I needed another walk break, so we walked for a 1/4 mile as I decided I will finish this *&%$#@%^ race. Gotta tell you that I said a bad word that probably didn't impress the folks around me. But I had to vent.

Anger out, I looked at Dori, with her blue Light the Night "Survivor" shirt on, and said, "Let's go." Dori was carrying her jacket and we alternated carrying her heavy purse. I think I finished in 2:17, but I didn't give a lick or a whip about time. I was so glad to finish, especially with my girl, who was smiling, strong and confident! Today was a payback day, she said - Dori ran for me. She is amazing. Makes me a little ver klempt posting that.

We're going to a get a bite to eat, but I'll share a meatier version later.

Thanks to all of you for your support.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

One Day Away

We're in San Francisco, safe and sound. It was a long day yesterday on the airplane and in shuttle buses.

Highlights of the day included the Southwest flight attendant recognizing our Team in Training crew of 18 (17 ladies and moi). The plane erupted when she said the entire Tennessee chapter raised $140,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We arrived in Oakland (nice airport, dump city), drove across the Bay Bridge (a few folks weren't happy when I reminded them about the bridge ramp that was destroyed during the 1989 earthquake) and finally made it to our hotel after 2 p.m. local time. Dori and I were very hungry, so we walked down to touristy Fisherman's Wharf and slammed some food that we didn't really taste.

Dori chilled in the hotel, while I caught a shuttle to the Nike Women's Marathon tent in Union Square to retrieve my bib number and time chip. The scene was Estrogen City - women receiving massages, manicures, you name it. Back at the hotel, I lied down for 15 minutes before we headed to the Top Fundraiser reception. Joan Benoit Samuelson spoke about what we've accomplished and why tomorrow's race is the most popular and recognizable race for women "in the world." She's tiny, but not diminutive in any other way.

We were told the top 90 fundraisers in attendance raised almost $1 million and we heard from a man who received 47 rounds of chemo, but was doing well. His beautiful and impressive family was clearly touched, as were we. LLS organizers and Samuelson then recognized the top three fundraisers, who raised $31K, $36K and $45K. The first and last spoke. The first introduced her sister, who has been battling a form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in her brain. She said she started fundraising 10 years ago because "she was fat," but three years later her sister was diagnosed. She was very fired up, like football fired up. Strong lady. The top fundraiser, who was probably in her early 30s, took the microphone and started crying as she told us about her husband's diagnosis 12 months ago. Not many dry eyes in the house. You would be impressed and inspired by these tigers.

I slept well last night but haven't recovered from this bronchitis. I'm tired and stuffy. Dori wondered, "What percent are you?" To which I responded, "Don't ask." But how I perform running 13.1 tomorrow is little stuff. Sure, I'm bummed, but we are having a great time together. When Dori was sick, she thanked me many times for everything I was doing to keep things moving along. She hasn't stopped, and I don't want her to ... I said 14 years ago we pledged "for better or worse ... in sickness and in health." We've had a lot of better, a little worse.

The weather tomorrow looks decent - an upper level low and fog off the coast will keep the temps down along the coast. We'll probably start in the mid 50s and end in the low 60s. San Francisco, as advertised, is a beautiful city, so hopefully that will be part of what keeps my mind straight as I deal with this bug tomorrow. You all know what the other part is.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Night Flashbacks

I should rename this weekly goofiness Friday Morning Flashbacks, but here's another early version of FNF, Inspiration-style pre-marathon. Gotta go with the Rocky theme, "Gonna Fly Now," from Rocky 2, "Chariots of Fire" and Springsteen's "Born to Run."





Finally: "I see a whole army in San Francisco here in defiance of blood cancer."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dedication to Dedicated People

I've surfed a little to read stories of people who will be running Sunday. The most compelling so far comes from Raleigh, NC. Talk about some strong, graceful ladies. Here's more about the daughters and their mother, Paula Sukenik.

Obviously, I'm running Sunday to honor my precious wife and best friend, Dori. But I'm running for so many more people, most of whom I don't know personally. I just know what they have experienced or will experience. But here are some of the many people I'll be thinking about in addition to Dorothy Ruth Sawyer Brown.

I honor:

- The friends we have made through our journey in Nashville, including Dori's fellow survivors from 11 North - Chuck, Tammy, Kim, Candy, all of you. Also, the wonderful staff at 11 North and the 2nd Floor Clinic.

- PJ and Ann, two ladies whose spunk and spirit I admire from afar in distance but closely through the Web connection.

- Robin Groff, who died earlier this year. I've thought of Robin several times on my most difficult training runs. What a lovely lady who wrapped herself in God's love.

- Ronni on the East Coast, Lea on the West Coast and everybody like them in between. Ronni and Lea are two ladies who tell it like it is and keep great attitudes.

- My fellow Team in Training Teammates, who woke up early every Saturday and many other days and dedicated four months of their lives to help people in need.

- The 100 Donors who helped us do what we've done the last five months. The world is a better place because of your giving.

Dori just returned from Light the Night. I stayed home because of the bronchitis and because it's raining. They gave her a "Survivor" shirt, which she plans to wear Sunday as she cheers me and others on. Go away, bronchitis, and let me run like I know I can.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Untimely Bug

The Nike Women's Half Marathon is only four days away, but I've started another race - the quest to defeat some stubborn bronchitis. It's the same stuff that knocked me down a month ago.

Yesterday afternoon, a scratchy throat and fatigue showed up, smiling like a cheesy game show host. I went to bed early last night and did something I almost never do - slept 10 hours. Normal is six hours, maybe a tad more. This morning, I knew I needed relief but dreaded calling my doctor and getting a late afternoon return call. I needed anti-biotics now, so I went to the Minute Clinic.

Drugs away, I worked past lunch, then came home for a nap. The pharmacist says I should begin feeling better tomorrow. That would be very fine with me, so I can carb up, hydrate and rest normally. Not much tastes good right now.

Some family members have empathized that I've trained nearly five months for Sunday's race and may not be 100 percent. That would stink, but here's another perspective. We have too many friends who are facing far worse than not running a race. And there's no way in hell I won't run Sunday. Lastly, today is Dori's and my 14th anniversary, so it's hard to be too bummed, ya know?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Order Restored

Last night, I joined about 15 Team in Training teammates for a preview meeting of the upcoming weekend. I was the only guy in the room. When our leader, Leslie, handed out pretty bags with fluffy, colorful paper with our purple jerseys and other goodies, it felt like sorority rush. It was a good time.

Sunday's run in Sante Fe was good for several reasons (scenic, peaceful, great air), but it was very slow (10:20/mile pace). The altitude and food were factors, but I needed to bring it back with a good five-mile run this morning.

It's pretty humid this morning - 90% with a 64 degree dewpoint and 67 degrees. Great weather if it were early August, but we're in mid-October. Still, I felt pretty good out there, running a 9:20/mile pace to the midway mark. The first half of the run was mostly downhill; the return route was mostly uphill. I picked up the pace, negative splitting and finishing at a 9:13/mile pace, or 46:07 total. I'll run one more time, probably three miles at race pace on Thursday morning.

I recently read this interesting article about the credit crisis and consumers being tapped out. Consider this sentence in the article: The “entitlement generation” typically means the children of the Baby Boomers — a group that felt entitled to have what their parents had and more, but much earlier in their lives.

No one was guilty of borrowing too much or spending well beyond their means, right? Of course they were and there's plenty of blame for others to accept, if they're willing - executives and their complicit boards, Wall Street, greedy, arrogant politicians from all parts of the spectrum, lazy regulators and others. I prefer not to listen to the whining and finger-pointing ... maybe that's why I continue to avoid the yapping on cable TV and am enjoying college football talk so much!

One last thing, a fundraising update: Dori's Light the Night Team has already raised $3,000! Our TNT effort is nearing $16,000, once the dust settles and the LLS folks can identify all the matches. That's worth celebrating.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Shack

It was very nice, during a busy return day at work, to receive a CaringBridge notice from Lea Morrison. Lea, another one of those cyber-friends we haven't met or spoken to, received great news. She's leukemia free 10 months post transplant. I enjoyed reading the joy in her words. It never gets old to hear someone celebrate life with others.

I'm checking in regularly with Ann Gregory and her battle with ALL. On the way back from New Mexico, we switched planes in Houston. Dori and I both realized Ann, another world wide web friend in the blood cancer fraternity, was nearby in a Houston apartment recovering from her recent transplant at M.D. Anderson. Ann, we continue to draw from your courage and beacon.

One highlight from the weekender was the opportunity to read on the airplane. Dori spotted a book Friday in the airport bookstore that my mother recently read and recommended - The Shack, which has been on the New York Times best seller list, by William P. Young. If you haven't read it, bring a lot of energy and strap yourself in. It's intense, wonderful outside-the-box reading.


Before I review it (I won't give away the plot), I have to acknowledge why some may not like the book. It can be easily construed as preachy and over the top. As it explores our pre-conceived notions of religion, the Trinity and everything related, the author uses snappy, downloadable questions from the main character, Mack, to enable the unorthodox characters representing the Trinity to fill in the holes.

OK, enough for the fair and balanced portion of the review. The Shack challenged everything I learned about religion in six short hours. Not that I accepted everything I learned about religion over the years, but I found wonder and joy in the author's handling of why we question our faith and love in God. Through Mack, Young lets us experience the deep sorrow, anger and disappointment that has undermined or attempted to undermine many people's faith in God.

Young aims to convince us that God's outlook for each person will bring calm to stormy waters. "I'm especially fond of him" was Papa's (God's) oft-repeated line about many individuals. The exploration of our humanity, our emotions (or lack thereof) and our willingness to revere institutions (government, wealth, fame, whatever) over God's love were also revealing. I especially agree with the institutions conclusion - No political party has the answers, contrary to what they want us to believe.

I felt uncomfortable reading a few parts of the book, which isn't a bad thing at all. Since we're human, many of us tend to shoe-horn religion and Bible verses as we see fit - to rationalize, hide or even overpower. Religious attendance and appearances aren't prerequisites for everlasting life, nor is ignoring taking the time to get closer to God. Religion can be an intoxicant, the author asserts, to the detriment of our relationship with God. Some so-called believers even view non-Christians as unchosen or damned.

The author uses the plot to convince us otherwise ... that God's perfect love with his Son and Spirit reveal an openness and acceptance to which we should all aspire. God's perfect love is freeing and comforting. I feel this with my family at times and wished I felt it more often. Something to aspire to ...

I didn't agree with every conclusion by Mack or the characters who made up the Trinity; however, I learned a lot about my own views - some good and some where improvement is needed. I did have this reinforced: Tragedy and fear beckon the love and forgiveness of our Creator. That was a recurring theme as we navigated the stormy seas of leukemia.

Thanks, Mom, for the recommendation.