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, 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


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.


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


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. :^)