In Which I Make a Fool of Myself for a Good Cause

Tomorrow is it. With all my crazy health problems of late, I haven’t done anywhere close to the fundraising I hoped to do, but regardless — tomorrow I’ll be golfing 50 holes. Again due to the health stuff, I haven’t been to a driving range, so my first golf swing attempt will be on the course tomorrow. Yikes. :)

What am I golfing for exactly? I’m glad you asked, even if you really didn’t. Hehehhe.

  • Harbor Light Christian Schools is an independent, non-denominational school. It shares a name and building with a church, but is not actually a church ministry. It’s completely separate.
  • I’ve seen HLCS transform my kids. In a good way. Yes, it provides a Christian education as one would expect, but it does so much more that I honestly never expected:
    • It’s given my kids a safe place to learn who they are. No bullying. No ostracizing for being “weird”. No judgement based on background.
    • Even with a district size of under 100 students (K-12!), my girls have all played multiple sports, competing successfully with schools 10 times their size. Heck, Lizzie (a 7th grader) made a double play the other day on the varsity softball team against a school at LEAST 10 times their size.
    • The student/teacher ratio is such that teachers form a personal, sincere, and direct relationship with the kids. This means students can’t get away with fluffing off, because the teacher will follow through with contacting parents and arranging extra help if needed.
    • It’s also shocking for me to see families of drastically different Christian denominations not only exist together, but excel in making each other better Christians, and better people. In fact, the differences at Harbor Light are one of the biggest strengths. When we learn to get along and agree on commonalities, it helps everyone relate to the rest of the world better. Getting rid of the “us/them” mindset is so healthy, and it happens every day.

 

But tuition is so, so expensive for a private school. Even in our economically depressed area of northern Michigan, it’s not uncommon for tuition prices for Christian schools to hover around the $10,000 per year range. While in other parts of the country that is a paltry amount to pay for tuition at a private school, up here, it makes it unreachable for the majority of families.

And so, golf.

Harbor Light does an incredible amount of fundraising. So much so, that for a top notch, parochial education, the base tuition is reduced to around $5,600 per student. PLUS, there are incentives (half off for the first year, things like that), scholarships, and tuition forgiveness that takes place every year. No one gets rich educating students at Harbor Light Christian School, but student’s lives are enriched beyond measure.

I could go on and on about the specific things HLCS does to benefit the community and world, but I’ll save that for another day. Giving families the ability to provide their children with a top notch academic education, while at the same time teaching them to exist peacefully and productively around others of differing world views is priceless. So, I agreed to participate in this golf marathon. My goal is/was to raise $1,500 to offset tuition prices next year. Again, due to my recent health concerns, I haven’t been able to beat the bushes for support, which is very unfortunate. If you’d like to contribute, even a small amount, I would be grateful. If you’re unable to contribute financially, please either pray for HLCS, or at the very least ponder how amazing it is to raise a generation of young Christians who understand how to get along with people of varying faith systems.

Here’s a link to my contribution page if you’re interested in donating. Thanks for reading. :)

A Fairly Scary Health Update

I’m not famous, but my jobs past and present have given the opportunity to have a large number of online friends who genuinely care about my wellbeing. I pour my heart into the things I do (which sounds odd for someone in a technical field), and countless people support me, defend me, and protect me from the big bad wolves of the Internet.

So when something significant happens in my life, people often want to know. It’s not a creepy invasion of privacy, or a juicy tidbit for gossip around the watercooler, but rather real people genuinely concerned about my wellbeing. That’s incredibly humbling, just so you all know. And so I want to give an update, because I think it’s better than leaving people wondering. Plus, I truly appreciate the wellwishes, prayers, and encouragement. ANYWAY:

This week I went to the doctor because I have a pain in my abdomen in about the spot my gallbladder lives. I’m about the right age, the right (over)weight, and the right skin-tone to be a likely candidate for a faulty gallbladder. So I had a blood test, a urine test, and an ultrasound. When the tests came back, my gallbladder looks OK. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t appear to be full of stones or anything.

My liver and kidneys, on the other hand, appear to have issues. That’s fairly shocking, as I haven’t had any symptoms related to kidney or liver, but the tests came back with issues. My liver is fatty, and is stressed, but is still functioning well. So for that, I need to lose weight, and things should improve. My kidneys, however, appear to be in really bad shape. I don’t have the specific numbers, but the numbers that are supposed to be low are very high, and the number that is supposed to be high is very low. In fact, the test were so unsettling, that the doctor referral slip had “Acute Renal Failure” written on it. I didn’t realize the severity of things until I saw that. Scary sounding, no?

So far I’ve consulted with 3 doctors, and the next step is to get an ultrasound of my kidneys to check blood flow. Then I need to hydrate REALLY well for a few days, and get my blood/urine retested. My close friends have been urging me to go immediately to a specialist, and I understand that mentality — but this short-term plan makes sense to me. The initial tests may have been skewed, partially because:

  • I have no symptoms of renal failure.
  • I have been hitting the Couch-2-5K program HARD, doing a new run every day, instead of 3/week.
  • It’s possible I was dehydrated and didn’t realize it.
  • Only my blood test showed issues, my urine test (on the next day) was fine.

 

One of the doctors consulted specializes in sports medicine, and he’s seen an intense workout regimen combined with insufficient hydration cause test results similar to mine. (so, a false positive) If my next tests still show problems with kidney function, I will do what it takes to get the best treatment I can. I know kidneys are nothing to mess with, and I’m not ignoring the issue. I promise. :)

I’ll update everyone as I learn more.

Sucking Sucks, A Runners Tale

Be thankful it's not smell-o-vision...

Today is the 7th run on my path to running a 5K. It’s my 4th day straight, which is pretty cool. I hope to continue with my daily runs, even if they’re small runs. Building up that habit is something I’ll be really proud of. But…

I really suck at running.

No really, that’s not a false humility sorta thing. I’m not fishing for compliments. But today was the first time I had to jog 3 minutes straight. Oh. My. Word. It’s unbelievable how difficult it was to stay trudging along at 5MPH for 3 consecutive minutes.

I have friends who are “runners”, and I often see them talk about the “short 5 mile run” they took that morning. Or, “it was rough between miles 6-8, but the last 7 were smooth.” I’m really happy for them, and it’s cool they can run like that. The problem is, if I look at the math, at my current rate of improvement, it will take approximately 6 millennia for me to get to that level of ability.

I know, I’m just whining now, but I’m not even running! I almost died from jogging for 3 minutes. It’s difficult to imagine jogging an entire 5K, much less running that far. And taking a “short 5 mile run” any time in the foreseeable future? Ugh.

Anyone else have a difficult time imagining themselves as real “runners”? I sure do…

Where I’m From…

While the neighborhood is pretty rough, and half the houses in the area are burned and gone, the house I grew up in is still standing. Google Maps is a pretty cool thing. :)

Just click to browse around my old neighborhood

Just click to browse around my old neighborhood

Asthma: The Secret I Didn’t Know

I’ve had asthma most of my life. When I was younger, the doctor never diagnosed it, so unfortunately my lungs are full of scar tissue from a childhood full of wheezing and gasping. (My mom feels really bad about this, BTW, but it’s not even a little bit her fault — the doctor should have figured it out. My mom has since become a nurse, I suspect partially due to that feeling of helplessness regarding my childhood, but who knows.)

Anyway, the doctors measure my lung capacity at 70-80% what it should be, plus I still have exercise induced asthma attacks. Thus, running has always, ALWAYS sucked. And I mean sucked. If you’re a runner, I urge you to try running while wearing a snorkel filled with cotton. Your body is tired and your muscles ache due to lack of oxygen. And your lungs? Oh God your lungs. “Burn” doesn’t really describe the feeling, it’s more like trying to breathe honey through a straw which is filled with angry, stinging bees.

Running sucked.

It’s important to note the past tense in that last sentence, however. About a year ago I was at the doctor for something routine, and asked for a refill on my Albuterol inhaler. He asked me how well the inhaler was working, and I told him that I was still alive, so I called it a win. He recommended I use my inhaler 20-30 minutes BEFORE exercising, rather than as a reaction to an asthma attack, to see if it might prevent the attack from starting in the first place. Oh. My. Word. He changed my life. Seriously. So I said all that to say this:

If you have asthma, and you never knew to use your inhaler before exercising, DO IT!

I can run now. I’m slow, I’m fat, my joints ache, and I get short of breath — but that’s like a walk in a meadow of flowers compared to how it used to be. Now, the more I run, the better I get. It has NEVER been like that before. I wish I could tell my old self to do that simple preemptive couple of puffs. But if even one person reads this and learns that thing I never knew, it will be totally worth it.

Breathing is awesome. :)

Valentine’s Day 2014

A Conversation With My Wife

Me and my sweetyWhile driving, my audiobook is interrupted by a phone call from my wife. (All hands free, for those concerned)

————-

Donna: Twitter doesn’t give me enough characters to write the school’s entire name in the “Full Name” field when I try to create an account.

Me: How close is it?

Donna: “Harbor Light Christi”

Me: Hmm… How about “Harbor Light HLCS?”

Donna: That fits, cool! Thanks!

Me: No problem. What’s the username?

Donna: @harborlight3

Me: What? That’s a horrible username…

Donna: That’s what it suggested.

Me: But… It’s horrible! Make it something like @HLCS or if that’s take @HLCS_Swordsmen

Donna: Oh that’s much better, and it’s not taken, cool!

Donna: “sword3f86gg55e”

Me: That’s worse than “harborlight3″, what’s wrong with @HLCS_Swordsmen?

Donna: No, that’s the password I used.

Me: YOU SAID IT OUT LOUD?!??!?!

Donna: Well yes, but only to you on the phone.

Me: But, what if someone overheard you?

Donna: How would they know what I was talking about? You didn’t even know, and I was talking to you!

Me: Still, doesn’t it cause you pain to say a password OUT LOUD?

Donna: Um, no…

Me: Wait… Wait… Did you say it out loud while you were WRITING IT ON PAPER?

Donna: Of course! I have to write it down so I can read it when I need to log in!

Me: You know I’m a system administrator and trainer, and that I deal with computer security every day, right?

Donna: So you’re gonna hack me?

Me: I don’t think I can talk to you anymore.

So, I Went to the Emergency Room…

This is a normal dayBased on the photo, you might think I went for mental health issues. While some days perhaps I should go for mental health issues, today I went for another reason. It’s an embarrassing reason, but I want to write about it, because going was the right thing to do, even though it really felt foolish.

I had the symptoms of a heart attack.

A little back story might be in order, and my tweet tells the humorous version of the story (normally where I’d stop, because funny is funny):

It's funny because it's sad...

See, at 10AM, I tried to back out of the driveway with my city-folk car. If I had a truck, it wouldn’t be a problem to back out of a driveway, but my fancy new car has a 2mm clearance off the ground, and gets stuck in a glob of snot. So, I shoveled with angry-man frustration for 2 full hours. It hurt, I could barely breathe, and was drenched in sweat — but dag-nabbit I got the car out by myself. (no one else was home, plus I’m a stubborn old mule)

Anyway, after countless puffs on my inhaler, a very long, warm shower, and a pity nap in my recliner — I still didn’t feel any better. In fact, at 5:00PM, I had the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Ache in left shoulder shooting up my neck
  • Hours of nausea
  • Foggy headed, general feeling of malaise

 

And so I figured it was about time I made sure I wasn’t having a heart attack. I didn’t really think I was having a heart attack, but I had the symptoms, and more importantly, I have this:

Not the horse. I don't what the horse thinks.

So I went. And it turns out I’m OK. The EKG showed no problems at all. The breathing issue is most likely due to my chronic asthma, so I got a breathing treatment and was sent home. But really, it was embarrassing. I felt like a fool when everything was fine. I keep second guessing myself for going to the hospital when everything was OK.

But I’m 38, overweight, sedentary, and have a long history of health problems.

So I went.

And if you have the symptoms of heart attack, YOU SHOULD GO TOO. And if the doctor or nurse makes you feel foolish for coming in? THEY’RE NOT GOOD DOCTORS OR NURSES. But you’re a good person, and I applaud you.

PS: I should have called 911 instead of driving MYSELF to the hospital since I was home alone. But driving yourself is better than not going. Still, you really shouldn’t drive yourself. I’m an idiot.

Letting Go

I have very few regrets. Sure there are the dumb physical things I’ve done that I wish I hadn’t. For example, I really wish I hadn’t ridden shotgun on a four-wheeler down a hill named “Shaboom” when I was in high school. The crushed spine I ended up with hurts fairly often, even 20+ years later. I also wish I hadn’t torn the nerve in my index finger working on a dishwasher, around the same time, when I was in high school. I can’t feel properly with the tip of my finger now, and when I touch the outside edge, I feel it on the inside edge. Very strange. At the end of the day, however, I don’t have any serious regrets that I worry have ruined my life in any significant way.

Well, until recently.

Have you heard of Bitcoins? I have. In fact, back before anyone knew what they were, I was mining them. I mined thousands and thousands of them. I traded them for cash, and bought Christmas presents a couple years back. Heck, a year ago, I cashed in a couple thousand to get the money we needed to move to Grand Rapids. Then, when we moved back this past summer, I cashed in every last Bitcoin I could scrape together in order to move back. I never regretted using Bitcoins, because it was “free money” so to speak. (There was a cost, but I cashed in enough to cover that long ago)

Then, Bitcoins got popular. And I mean really popular. The same Bitcoins I cashed in for pennies were suddenly worth $200! Even more recently, the coins I cashed it at $2 each (when we moved), were worth $1200! And I had none. Not one. Granted, when we needed money for moving, or for Christmas, it was nice to have them. But had I saved them? We’d have tens of millions of dollars now. Tens. Of. Millions.

sigh

A typical week’s transaction log, but showing today’s value.

Yes, I’m still mining. I took time off for the past 6 months after we moved back, because I couldn’t afford the electricity (that’s the cost to create Bitcoins, electricity usage), but I’m mining again. Thanks to the way Bitcoin works, its popularity means that my efforts are far less profitable. My mining rigs earn about $4 a day now. It’s the time of year that many of us, at least I, think about money. Christmas is expensive, and all the moving, career changing, etc., has taken us to the bottom of the barrel. Those Bitcoins would be awful nice…

I’m having a hard time letting it go. That’s really unlike me, as I have so much to be grateful for in life. Perhaps it’s just that I’ve never had any real regrets, and now that I do, I don’t quite know how to deal with it. Thus this post. I’m a writer, and writing is how I deal with things. I figure it’s better than drowning my woes in a bottle of Scotch. :)

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays, everyone. Try to live in the moment, and not dwell on the past. I’ll do the same. :)

Advances in BirdTopia

I warned you I’d be posting about birds. :)

One of the problems with having BirdTopia so close to my office window, is that when I move, it scares the birds away. My solution for this was to buy one-way mirror film to put on my window. After installing it (a real pain, btw), I of course danced like an idiot to see if I could scare the birds. I could not.

But.

The film makes it really hard to see, especially on a day like today, where it’s overcast and rainy. So I compromised:

Now you see me...

The bottom of the window is mirrored, so the window ledge birds can’t see inside. (The birds in the yard also can’t see Zoey stare longingly at them, since her head is window-sill high) Now it’s possible to sneak, but it’s also still possible to see the birdies clearly. Win/win? We’ll see. :)