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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thank You

Thank you, Father, for the uncountable and innumerable blessings you've poured into my life.

Thank you Corinne for the love in your eyes and the touch of your hands and your humor and for putting up with mine and for sticking with me even when all seemed lost.

Thank you Lauren for being such a sweet, smart girl and for lighting up so brightly whenever you see us. I dare say I've learned as much from you as you have from me.

Thank you Mom and Dad for raising me, for teaching me the way I should go, for helping me to see the wonder and beauty and hope and humor in this life on God's Way.

Thank you Mikel and Shannon for adopting Corinne and I as surrogate parents, for letting us love you and Richie, Lauren and Sam, for coming home again, for letting Lauren still be such a huge part of my our life.

Thank you Katie for being one of the most wonderful people I know. Come home!

Thank you Ellyn for agreeing to be my only big sister (instead of my aunt), for forgiving me for NOT being there when you needed me a few years ago, and for loving me like only a big sister can. ;-)

Thank you Ben and Mandi for becoming more than "just cousins" to me this year. I love you both.

Thank you also to Lilly for being one of Lauren's best friends!

Thank you Steve for the excellent discussions of the truth and our life in it, for the many hours together on our bikes, for your patient and constant work to reunite something which looks permanently broken to so many others.

Thank you Mark for being there whenever anyone needs you, for always trying to be The Blessing that we seek for our brothers and sisters, and for being one of my oldest friends.

Thank you Darren for keeping me sharp, as David says, "like iron sharpeneth iron!" I've learned things from you, too, that I didn't seem to be learning anywhere else.

Thank you Frank and Bonnie for loving Lauren so much, and Frank for our new friendship!

Thank you Jim and Dee for trying to see past (or ignoring) my foibles, for being our friends, and for always reminding us to keep the Kingdom of God at the top of the list and the front of our minds.

Thank you Eric and Bonny for forgiving me for my temper (which got the better of me a couple years ago) and for everything you bring to our ecclesia.

Thank you Rich for the friendship and the work over the years. 7 ½ years!

Thank you Joseph and Andy for the work and the chance to make something(s) fun.

Thank you Corinne for the love and magic you work in the kitchen, and for how much you love to share it with our brothers and sisters (and anyone else who eats real food).

Thank you Robin for coming back into Corinne's life. She's my best friend, and you've made me happy by making her happier than I could do alone.

Thank you to Kim and Dave and Tiff and Joshua and Jed and Sarah and dozens or hundreds of other people, too many to list, who have brought love or peace or adventures or joy or laughter into my life, who have taught me something, or somehow managed to learn something from me.

Thank you, Father, for blessing us all so thoroughly, and for providing each of us as blessings to each other.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Air Fares, Wealthy Members and Generosity

(There's a point to this, but you have to read the whole thing to get it!)

I was reading a tech article and actually noticed an ad. (That's almost bizarre enough to merit a mention!) The ad was for Emirates Air. Specifically for, "First class private cabins between JFK and Milan." The ad's photo implied extreme comfort and luxury.

Note that I am NOT in the market for tickets to Milan. Or anywhere else.

Just out of curiosity, I clicked the ad and eventually figured out how to search for the fares for these first class flights.

Now I should point out that Emirates Air actually has a decent reputation, from what I've heard on NPR. They have budget seats.

These aren't them.

Emirates rates

The highest and lowest rates are highlighted, both near the middle of the table.

Who would ever, EVER, pay that kind of money for two people to fly anywhere on someone else's plane and schedule?

The high rate is so high that the lowest rate almost seems reasonable until you think about it in the absolute sense.

But, I suppose if you're a billionaire and your private jet is in the shop or you have family going multiple directions, $44,000 (boggle...) is just money.

After all, a man with $1,000,000,000 in the bank looks at $44,000 the same way a man with $10,000 looks at $0.44.

Yeah, that's right. Forty-four cents to the man with ten thousand dollars is forty-four thousand dollars to the man with a billion dollars.

OK, so I went to the extreme by bringing in Billionaires. There are plenty of them around these days (over 1,600), but there are a lot more ten-millionaires (over a million). So how does someone with $10,000,000 in the bank see a $44,000 airfare? The same way a man with $10,000 sees a $44.00 airfare.

This brings me, in my own round about way, to something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately. I often hear people talk about how generous this-or-that rich member of their church or ecclesia has been. It's clear that there is some gratitude there, but also that a bit of pedestal building has happened. That rich person has been elevated in someone's mind because of the generous donations made to the church.

How do those generous donations compare to the person's resources, though? If you had $10,000 in the bank, would you only donate 44 cents to your worthy causes and charities?

I'm trying to make a point without being blunt or sounding accusatory, so let me finish with a quote from a much wiser man than myself:

And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Answering the Question, “Did I Swallow a Baseball?”

The short answer to the question, “Hey, Seth, you look like you tried to swallow a baseball and it got stuck! Did you?” is, in fact, "Hah! No."

I don't blame you for wondering, though. The list of weird stuff that people unintentionally or unknowingly swallow starts with spiders and then gets weird. A baseball wouldn't be much of a stretch.

The long answer is as follows.

Saturday I worked at the hall with about a third of the ecclesia, cleaning up both inside and outside. We'd let the brush encroach on the yard a bit (a lot) too much, so most of my time was spent outside.

After stacking all of the chairs in the main room so that Darren and Ravi could vacuum, I went out to help with brush cleanup.

Or so I thought. Instead of brush, I cleaned up trees. I used Frank's chainsaw to cut down one tree to the right of the shed, then I climbed a ladder and cut a large branch from another tree.

After all the cutting, I dragged the trees and branches down to the parking lot, across the newly cleared spot behind the lot, all the way out to and over the stonewall.

I've done a lot of this kind of work. Really.

But I remember thinking, when I was dragging the largest piece, "Oh man this is the heaviest thing I've ever moved." I managed, though there were a few times that I drove my feet into the ground instead of moving the tree.

Later, Frank asked me to take down another tree which was already behind the stone wall. This one was much taller but wouldn't have to be dragged. Bonnie requested that I cut it up so they could take it home for burning, so I did, then I threw the logs out to the parking lot so she could gather them. (Nobody had a wheelbarrow or tractor.)

I was surprised at how totally exhausted I was by this point. In fact, I was nervous while cutting up that tree, as I was so tired that my hands felt weak and shaky. I'm comfortable with a chainsaw, but if I had continued to feel that way I would have put it down for the day.

Sunday morning I was still a bit tired, and my back was sorer than I expected. Not very surprising.

Monday morning, shortly after getting out of bed, I noticed that my back was still quite sore. Plus, I had a gigantic lump at the bottom of my neck! (Not *quite* big enough to actually be a baseball, but close enough. Certainly larger than a golf ball.)

Corinne starts trying to find an Ear-Nose-Throat doctor to see me soon. She's thinking I have some freakish cancer that, at the rate this thing grew in, will eat me whole within a couple of weeks. First appointment she gets is for Friday in Mystic, but later she gets one with Dr. Cameron today (Tuesday).

I figured it's a swollen lymph node (which means I have an infection). I've had them a couple of times before, though the only one this big was in my armpit in my early teens. A search on WebMD and eMedicineHealth seems to confirm my Nearly Professional Diagnosis, though I wasn't comforted by the warning that if the swollen node is immediately above the collarbone then medical attention should be immediately sought. (That is when Corinne found the appointment for Tuesday. She didn't like that warning either.)

With my back still hurting and feeling generally weak and maybe feverish, I take my Ibuprofen and try to work.

Tuesday morning my back hurt a little less, but the ball in my throat is as big and hard as ever. I feel slightly clumsy, but I figure that goes with feeling generally weakened. I'm also having a very hard time remembering the words "lymph node," so clearly the fever is affecting my brain.

Tuesday afternoon I go to see Dr. Cameron. He walks into the exam room and asks why I'm there. I lean my head back a bit and point, and he says, "Oh, you have a swollen thyroid!"

"Really? I thought it was a lymph node." He asks me to swallow.

"Nope, it's the thyroid. It's connected to your larynx, so it moves when you swallow. The lymph node would stay put. Same spot, though."

Now I'm worried. My grandmother had some significant thyroid issue at some point, but I don't remember what.

"Have you done any strenuous activity in the last few days?"


With that one question, all the stress of the last couple days evaporated. He clearly knew exactly what was wrong with me, and the way he asked the question clearly implied this was a common(-ish) problem.

So I explained what I had done, and he agreed that moving that one tree was probably what did it. I ruptured a blood vessel in my thyroid, and it swelled up with blood. Overnight it hardened when the blood coagulated.

It's called a Chocolate Cyst, because of the consistency of what it contains. Mmmm, like a nice blood pudding!

The treatment? Wait a couple of weeks for it to soften up, which means the coagulated blood has turned into a thick, oily liquid. He'll then tap and drain it right through the skin, in his office. He says it will never go down on its own.

By now you're surely wishing you'd stuck with the short answer, but at least now you can be sure that I did not, in fact, swallow a baseball.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trot Trot to Boston (Trot... with Lauren?)

Kissy Face for Oma I sent a text to Shannon at 8am asking if she could have Lauren's hair "pretty" for Bonnie, and then picked Lauren up at her house at a few minutes before 8:30. She hopped from their deck, past the car, and all the way down the driveway. "Lauren, the car's right here." "Oh yeah, I forgot."

Bigger Than Her Head Our first stop was at Snoopy's Diner in North Kingstown for breakfast with Rich, as I do every week. (Don't worry, I'd warned him that she'd be with me!) We arrived at 9:10, about twenty minutes early. Lauren hopped from the car, across the parking lot, up the stairs, and to her seat in the booth.

When contained in a small space (like the car or the diner's booth), she'd talk non-stop. When not so constrained, she hopped.

Corinne called at 9:30 to talked to Lauren. Lauren was loud, and had everyone in the restaurant laughing at her silliness. (“HELLO OMA!”)

(Thank you, Rich, for being so patient with Lauren's constant interruptions.)

On the Train to Boston Our next stop was the South Attleboro, MA, commuter train station. The commuter lot was FULL so we had to park at the far end of the mall's lot, past McDonalds. I think Lauren hopped at least a third of the quarter mile from the car to the train stop.

Lauren loves trains, and this was her third ride (the previous two were just short, fun trips from Westerly to New London). She watched the land zipping by most of the time, or chatted with our neighbors, or with the conductor. Or me. Or her Minnie Mouse. Or the train itself.

Mixing Up the Water We disembarked at Ruggles Station, and she hopped all over the place while I waited in line to buy a sandwich at Dunkin Donuts ("Opa I'm hungry again!"). After we ate, we went out to catch a cab.

Pat pat pat Waiting for a cab took thirty minutes, five hundred hops, and about twenty loops around the square, raised flower box on the sidewalk that she pretended was a "balancer" (balance beam). In that time I flagged down six full taxis and two police cars before finally finding an empty ride.

Bonnie was surprised to see us! I was sure Frank or someone would have told her we were coming up, but that wasn't the case.

She put a pillow over her stomach as soon as we walked in. I thought she was just being self-conscious, but later I realized it was self-preservation, as Lauren patted the pillow to ask if that's where "she was cut".

Lauren prattled, hopped, pestered, skipped, chattered, and dumped water the whole time we were there. (She wasn't being naughty, just young and easily bored.) Oh, and she kept pulling the dividing curtain further and further, because she couldn't understand that she was also pulling it away from the wall at the other end.

Cheesey Bonnie looked good, and seemed to be rather eager to get out of there and go home.

The original plan had included leaving the hospital for a trip to the observation deck at the top of the John Hancock building. Towards the end of visiting Bonnie, though, I noticed little bags developing under Lauren's eyes. Instead, we visited Au Bon Pain in the hospital lobby (after making one mandatory trip up-and-down the "stairs you don't have to walk on"), and then grabbed another taxi to take us back to the train station.

Where... we waited. For almost an hour.

No, let me rephrase that. I waited. Minnie waited. Lauren hopped. All around the platform. By the time the train arrived there were forty or fifty people waiting with us, but she was oblivious. Hop hop hop around the big bench installation, then lunge for my leg and hang on to it, panting, catching her breath... and hop hop hop to the big, aluminum trash can and back to my leg, pant pant pant, catch her breath, and then back to hopping.

She wasn't the only kid on the platform, and she wasn't being embarrassing. Lots of people would stop what they were doing and just watch her, smiling and shaking their heads. Not once did she ever bump into anyone (though she came very close to ramming her head into a large man's butt at one point, she caught herself just in time). Finally, she hopped back to me one last time and stumbled onto her stomach. She wasn't hurt, but ran straight to me blushing and just huddled with me to warm up for a minute, and then the train was there.

On the Train Home Apparently that stumble came when her gas tank finally ran dry. Five minutes after we boarded the nearly full train, she was fast asleep on my lap.

She didn't wake up when we switched to an empty bench after lots of people left at the next stop. She didn't wake up when we left the train, nor as I carried her all the way back to the car (and thought my arm was going to fall off).

She woke up (a little) at one point on the highway, yelling, "I never want to see that bad train again, it wanted to hurt you!" Seconds later she was out again. Mike came out to get her when we pulled into their driveway, and she barely woke up enough to give me a hug.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Web Development Class with Ethan Pride

For a few months now I've been teaching Ethan how to develop a web site, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript (soon), and content management systems.

We meet once a week.

(This post was a demonstration for him on the benefits of a CMS.)

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