Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Doing Alright; October 9, 2014

There are times as parents, something catches your attention and you go, "Yes, we did OK."

It hit me hard - in a good way -- when I stopped to reflect as I left work last evening that our daughter, who is a 19-year-old college sophomore, is taking her fall break - driving 5 and a half hours - to go see her 89-year-old great grandmother in central Pennsylvania.

Everything else in my world could be going wrong and this is one of those things that would shine brightly over everything else.

I'm truly thankful and couldn't be more proud of the young woman she becomes every single day.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Father's Visit With His Daughter: The Virginia 10-Miler; September 26-28, 2014

When the online version of the Genworth Virginia 10-Miler Athlete Guide was posted, Waverly was warned:  Don't look at page 18.

There's only four streets in Lynchburg that are parallel and those are in downtown.

There are even fewer that are totally flat.

Rollers were to be expected even aside from Farm Basket Hill.

"Farm Basket Hill is treacherous. It’s exhausting and takes sheer will to climb," said the pre-race article in the Lynchburg (Va.) News & Advance.

This might have been a slight overstatement compared to the two-loop course that I ran just three weeks prior in Bastrop State Park, but the course certainly wasn't flat.

The only thing athletically that Waverly had trained for more diligently was the half marathon she completed in January 2006 at the age of 10.

After spending five weeks on the road traveling with Lift Ministries to four different Christian youth camps in four states this summer, she began her training in late July.

We did a 5K together before she left to head back to the college the first week of August at the Outriggers By The Bay 5K in Kemah and it was just 20 seconds off her best time from earlier in the year.

So that it wasn't me that was trying to put together a plan for Waverly to prepare, I engaged Volte Endurance Training founder Bill Dwyer.

He put together a basic plan that called for running two days back to back each week and then three others run - one long - with a day's rest in between.

And she pursued it as diligently as she had eight years ago.

Her longest run was eight (8) miles -- one that she said she completed in about 85 minutes.

A Liberty Flames singlet that she wears with pride had gotten a bit loose during this time:  the same effect eight years ago when she prepared for her only half marathon to date.

She said it was never "tight" to begin with, but before it would cling a little bit to her tall frame.

I arrived Friday afternoon after a nice drive up Highway 501 from Raleigh-Durham.

I picked Waverly up at her dorm and we went downtown to pickup our packets.  As we were doing so, we saw Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson setting up their table.

I wanted to get a picture of Waverly with Kathrine and when I asked her if we could do so, she told me, "Three minutes."  Of course, not a problem.

What proceeded to take place after that was nothing short of amazing.

When they were in town in 2006 to participate in the RRCA National Convention that was hosted by the Houston Striders, I didn't take part in a lot of the festivities other than speaking on "Blogging" on a panel with's John Elliott.

They were two of the nicest individuals that I've met in a long tie and their incredible recognition factor in the running world was not something that they hung on to every second.

We engaged in a number of topics.  Roger shared that his father was very involved in education and encouraged Waverly greatly after learning that she was studying Elementary Education at Liberty.

We purchased his latest book and video on "Spirit of the Marathon II" and personally addressed it to the two of us.  As a bonus, Kathrine signed the pictue forward of her running what was her longest race ever (I believe that she told us) - an ultra.

I didn't get the opportunity to wait and see RRCA executive director Jean Knaack as Kathrine said that she was at the hotel working on some Roads Scholar activities.

We had a 25-minute or so run to get in.  Nothing hard, but something to just get loosened up for the day to come on Saturday.

As we left from her dorm, crossed the bridge over Highway 460 and around Williams Stadium, I could tell that I would "really" have my work cut out for me.  We ran by both the baseball and the new softball stadium and around a loop that circles the campus.

By the time we made it to University Drive, which includes a long, slow incline back to Williams Stadium (and with the afternoon warmth), we walked the back half of it not to take too much out of either one of us.

Waverly and I went to Vinny's - a local Italian restaraunt that we've been to once before - and then relaxed the remainder of the evening watching Liberty's women's volleyball team defeat Radford in Big South Conference action.

I picked her up at her dorm at 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning to be parked and well-prepared for an 8:00 a.m. start.  We walked over to the starting line as I was looking for Jean, but instead we saw Kathrine and Roger as they were going to be race announcing.

I talked to the sound guy and encouraged him by telling him how important it was to do what he did well for people like me to be able to communicate.  When I announce, I'm as only as good as the sound underneath my voice and the timer with a functioning reader mat.

We walked back to the car, sat and talked - while also staying warm as there was a little coolness in the air - until about 7:35 a.m.  As we stood in the port-a-potty line, Waverly pointed out to me a Liberty University professor that was running the race barefoot.

This was her race.  We had talked that if we got separated that she was to go on and not wait for me.

I've been running, but not as diligently as she has.  Her preparation was much better and it showed.  Hills had been kicking my butt the last eight weeks or so - and Saturday would prove to be no different.

We entered the sea of people, which included a larger number of runners who were doing the four-mile race.  (Note to the Lynchburg Road Runners Club, do a separate start please.)

In hometown or small-town races, the rule of thumb is to move up a little further in the queue or corral as there are many participants who are not aware of that piece of running etiquette.

When the gun went off, I gave her a kiss and after about 90 seconds, we had crossed the starting line and were on our way.

I told her as we walked from the car to the start that I had something to share with her after we finished.

It was something that I thought about the night before and when I checked, I was right.  It was 11 years to the day from what was probably my worst day as a parent.

And it was something that could have ruined the day that we were about to embark on.

In 2003, I had started to run.  I carried a lot more weight than what I have on me today, but I ran my first race in January of that year - the old four-miler at the then hp Houston Marathon.

Waverly would run her first race on Memorial Day four months later - the Kids' 1K at the inaugural Race for the Pennant 5K that finished on the field at then-Enron Field.

By September, she would run her first 5K - the Bearkat Bash in Klein.

With that enthusiasm, we had planned a day at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.  And, as we've now done so many times over the last 11 years, there was a race.  Another 5K.

However, somewhere around mile 1, I got the impression that she wasn't trying hard enough.  Yes, me - the new runner myself.

We finished, but I handled myself so inappropriately that we got in the car and headed straight back to Spring.

She actually had finished second in her age group that morning - at the age of 8, but my chilidsh behavior deprived her of that.

Definitely the worst thing that I believe that I've done to her as a parent.

The race starts next to E.C. Glass High School.  It is the 41st running of the event.  And it goes north on Langhorne Road, which is five lanes wide.

We both know (and knew) the dangers of going out too fast.  It wasn't hot, but humidity could be felt in the air.

We ran together and passed the first mile marker in 10:17.13.

Midway through the second mile was the bottom of Farm Basket Hill - and the start of a 122-foot climb to the 2-mile marker.

Waverly got ahead of me as my additional weight didn't do me any favors going up the hill.

I could see her ahead of me and was able to track our separate splits.  She hit mile 2 in 11:05.14 while I came through 26 seconds behind in 11:31.58.

I was immediately worried if she was going to run away from me, but it is something that we had discussed - for her to just keep going.

Now my mission was:  Catch up with her.

I cut 14 seconds into that over the next mile that included some rollers and another 60-foot climb.  She ran it in 11:00.14 while I made it through in 10:46.39.  So the edge was now a 12-second advantage.

With another set of rollers that only netted out to a 10-foot elevation gain, but a relatively flat section approaching the fourth mile, I was only able to make up four seconds as she ran mile 4 in 10:45 while I did so in 10:41.

During this time, though, as the four-mile participants turned off to their finish, I realized that this is what parenting was all about:  her mother and I had trained her to be able to run her own race in life.

As a runner, I was able to watch from behind as she did her best to run the tangents where it was possible as well as keeping her head up and running tall.

I smiled and I got a bit emotional, but one thing was for sure:  I had to catch her.

I did so shortly after we turned into Riverside Park.

The funny thing is, though, that she told me that she knew that I was close because she could hear my foot fall.  :-)

And just before a short, steep 60-foot climb to the mile 5 marker, I caught up with and went by her - charging up the hill.

We passed the midway point at 54:14.3.  I wasn't specifically thinking about our overall time, but it gave us a good shot to hit my realistic goal of 1:50 for her.

Bill based his time projection based on a recent 5K time, but when she and I talked about it later she wondered which time he had used.  Her PR is 33:07.

I had sent Bill a text the night before - after running with her (and not completely knowing every mile of the course) - that I thought she would be at 1:47-1:48.

As we prepared to leave Riverside Park and get well into mile 6, Waverly indicated that her left hip had started to hurt.  It was from the heavy camber in the street, even though 1.) it was well-paved and 2.) she tried to run near the center of the lane.

We started to slow a little bit as we made it to mile 6 in 11:15.12 (65:29.46).

Somewhere around here, she saw one of her two roommates, Laura, from the first semester last year that was volunteering with a group from Lynchburg College (where she now goes to school).

On the way out to the Park, we saw numerous members of Liberty University's men tennis team volunteering as course marshals and I would holler "Go Flames!" as I ran by.

There was a little rise to the middle of mile 6 and then a downhill to mile 7.  Not even a net gain I don't believe, but right before mile 7 I was feeling pretty good.

There was a young female adult who was on the shoulder of a young man and I - for some reason - decided to try and jump and "high five" her.  When I came down, I had pulled my right hamstring.  Uh oh.

Just before then Waverly said that she was thinking to herself that the last thing that was needed for me to get hurt.  Oops!

I stretched it out, but by the time we got to the mile 7 marker she had put 16 seconds on me (11:28.75 to 11:44.34).

However, we picked up a drop of some 60-plus feet to mile 8 and I was starting to get a second wind.  She was running steady - but a step or two slower because of her hip - so I did what I've done in many races and that was to run strong ahead of her to give her a target to focus on.

Like I said, I was feeling good.  I noticed that the Liberty's women's volleyball team - who we watched the night before - was out volunteering.

I started to engage with them.  The first two were sisters, Jade and Sirena Vorster from Wellington, Florida.  The older of the two, who I saw first, is 6-4.  The younger of the two by two years is 6-2.  You can't miss them.

I saw freshman Hannah Weidner, a freshman from Shorewood, Minnesota - #5 who played like a machine the night before - and tried to engage, but she didn't catch on (nor get it, according to Waverly) after I passed.

Then there was Rachel Smoltz from Alpharetta, Georgia.  Yes, that Smoltz.

She's the daughter of former Atlanta Braves pitching great John Smoltz.

And as we were working our way towards the bottom of Farm Basket HIll, we saw Caila Stapleton (#2) from Daytona Beach, Florida.  She was completely recognizable with a very short haircut.

I congratulated them all on a great match the night before, but when I saw Stapleton, I motioned and said, "No. 2, right?"  She confirmed.

Waverly said later at breakfast at our favorite place to eat, Market at Main, that it had made her day.  She said something to the effect - to her teammate - that they were out to encourage runners and here she was being encouraged.

As we talked over the weekend, that is how I serve God.  I don't quote a bunch of scripture or say flowery prayers.  I just simply try to encourage other people to live life abundantly.

We made it to mile 9 in 11:53.03 - our slowest of the day as he slugged it out against Farm Basket Hill.

I think I remember seeing 1:41 on my watch and knew that we had been about 90 seconds across the start line.  I wanted to keep it as close to 1:50 as possible, but my wheels were starting to come up as I was beginning to cramp in my calves.

And she was starting to get a second wind.

She probably could have run off and left me by 30 seconds or so in that last mile, but to her credit - and me kind of pleading with her a little bit - we ran it in together as they called both of our names just short of the finish line.

We had made it in 1:51:33.

I was able to return a favor many times that she had done with me by getting her medal and putting it around her neck and giving her a big hug.

We went to our favorite breakfast place in all of Lynchburg - Market at Main - after the race and spent a great time reminiscing of a job well done by her.

We later went a Liberty softball scrimmage against Randolph College in their beautiful new stadium before heading to one of favorite places to eat dinner - The Neighbors Place Restaraunt.

She had some pasta and chicken while I had a nice skirt steak (well done).

Our waitress was really, really good and engaged in conversation a little bit, especially after she learned that we had run the 10-miler earlier in the day.  She said she was out supporting a friend that was doing the 4-mile race.

We talked about marathons and ultras, but Waverly noticed a necklace around the young woman's neck of the continent of Africa and she asked if she had been.

We found out that she had recently come back from an 11-month adventure called The World Race, which is "is a stretching journey into 11 countries in 11 months to serve "the least of these" while amongst real and raw community. This unique mission trip is a challenging adventure for young adults to abandon worldly possessions and a traditional lifestyle in exchange for an understanding that it's not about you; it's about the Kingdom."

Her name, based on what the credit card receipt suggested, is Jenny House.  And this is her blog from the race --

Waverly stopped at Cook Out - a regional chain - to get a shake.  I got some ice cream some place else.  Then we went to watch a period of Liberty's Division I women's club hockey team play against a talented 18-U team from Washington, D.C. at 9:30 p.m.

As we were leaving, we saw one of her best friends with her Mom - who was in town for a visit - in the parking lot.

Earlier today, we went to church together at Blue Ridge Baptist Church in Forest, Virginia where Waverly is the leader of the second grade girls Sunday School class for the 8:30 a.m. service.

Then we went to Moe's for lunch.

It is kind of our departure meal.  If I'm leaving, we're eating at Moe's, which is a Mexican food chain kind of in the Freebirds and Chipotle mold.

I had figured that - for various reasons - it was my eighth trip to Lynchburg and I enjoy each and every one, but it was hard leaving.

Almost as hard as it was last year during the fall semester when I visited in October.  I think I teared up 30 miles south that day.

However, I know that this is where she believes that God has led her to be at and is doing what she believes God is her calling her to do -- and I support her and believe that wholeheartedly.

I'm so proud of the young woman that she has become and the leader that she is.

I couldn't be more fortunate of a father - and proud of her.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Besieged; August 28, 2014

This is often how I feel.

I'll have some good spells and then I feel this way, which isn’t always discouraged nor is it overwhelmed.

Nonetheless, the feeling just beats me down.  It causes me to not want to get a good workout in or just sleep.

All of the good things that I have planned to do sometimes get lost in the fog of feeling this way and it is hard many times to fight through.

This week has been that entire way even though I’m going tomorrow to visit my grandmother in Pennsylvania.

Yes, it has been a tough 2014 so far.

So you could say that some of it is to be expected, but there are some other issues at play too.

It is hard when you spend the bulk of your time alone.

Yes, there are short-term remedies to that state of being, but when the long-term reality sets back in it is feeling of somebody almost sitting on your chest.

Don’t get me wrong:  I have great friends.

And, yes, there are some that I can – and would like to – spend more time with, but more often than not they have friends or acquaintances that I, from experience, don’t mix well with.

My friends may or may not know about it, but, regardless, I don’t ever want to drag their world down with my uncomfortableness with those individuals.

I’ve so much as to have driven to a race that doesn’t have an entry fee, but refuse to leave the vehicle and eventually leave the grounds because there were people there that I had long lost respect for.

And I didn’t think that I could be around them without it showing.

Needless to say, I've been greatly challenged.  It's hard, but I work through it.

I had written through the paragraph before the last one before a co-worker - at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday - that I don't talk to a lot - just because of job roles, etc. - asked me how I was doing.

I was given the opportunity to let some of the fog dissipate.

I didn't feel weak earlier in the morning expressing to an associate - in my work setting that I was only working with for only the second time - that I was having a rough time in case something didn't come out right.

But through the earlier conversations and a phone call to a very good friend of mine who lives in east Texas and is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, my spirits had lifted as he is such an encouragement in how he is handling all of the challenges that he has faced in the last year and a half.

We both noted that we have great kids.  Me one daughter; him, two.

Then when I got home and checked the mail, there was a document that arrived from the IRS that was actually good news - and a big burden off my heart.

I had called my grandmother to discuss when I would be arriving on Friday and what I had planned for the weekend.

All had turned out well enough to go to the gym to workout before coming back to home to finish getting ready to leave in a few hours.

I know that God put some people in the right place to help me through a rough patch and spell.

Some days are harder than the other, but I keep plugging away.

If you're reading, please keep me in your prayers.  I'm sure that today isn't going to be the last day that I feel the way that I did.  There will be more and once again, I'll need to battle.

However this is a place that I can come, let things go and work them out.

Thanks for listening and in advance for your prayers.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Daily Walk; July 28, 2014

Yesterday's highlights included ...

1.  Got to see and speak with Bill and Debbie Crawford at North Park Baptist Church this morning who have been home to the States for almost a month as they are missionaries to Dresden, Germany.  They had been unable to make a visit to North Park for 10 years.  Bill gave an excellent, relevant sermon that I'm glad that I was there for.  Debbie also got to meet Waverly for the first time ever.

2.  We also got to see and talk to both Bro. and Mrs. John (and Susan) Gross, the founding pastor of our church, as they were there with Bill and Debbie.  Was in the same youth department at the old North Freeway Baptist Church with Debbie, her brother, Tommy, and numerous others.  It was very important to me when my sister passed away that Bro. Gross, as he was our pastor growing up, lead the memorial service.

3.  I get to see Waverly sing with the worship team one more Sunday after today before she heads back to Liberty University for her sophomore year.  They sang Kari Jobe's "We Are (The Light of the World)" as a praise and worship song as opposed to Waverly singing it as a solo.  However, Waverly led this song and her confidence in who she is as a young woman using her talents for God is probably at its all-time highest.

4.  Attended the 2nd annual HARRA Strategic Meeting with 19 other involed and committed runners at president Joe Carey's house.  Really appreciate Joe opening up his home to host us all.  Great discussion, but the key take-away is how to communicate HARRA's value to the general greater Houston area running community.

Shout-outs to ...

5.  Bill Dwyer as he delivered Waverly's plan to her that she will use to train for the Virginia 10-Miler that we will run together on Saturday, September 27 in Lynchburg, Virginia.

A couple of good reads this morning from ...

6.  Max Lucado
7.  Barry Blanton's Monday Morning Minute

Challenges for today include ...

8.  My sister, Holly, would have been 42 today.  Please keep the families in your prayers when you can.  My parents will be taking the girls to visit my grandmother in central Pennsylvania on Wednesday for a week.  Much is needed for so many.

Holly, A Few Words on Your Birthday; July 28, 2014

I remember we all would laugh at the times when Dad could never remember if your birthday was the 28th or the 29th.

One of the few pictures that we ever got together was the one last year at your birthday party at Pappasito's.

It was probably the only other one that I remember as well -- other than the one as you as a baby sitting in the blue plastic chair and me in a blue-and-white striped tank top at Bill and Leah's.

I, of course, had hair then and you wouldn't catch me in a tank top (or running singlet) today!

Bill and Debbie Crawford were in from Germany yesterday at church and, of course, the "old" North Freeway crew was as faithful as always as the first thing Debbie did - having not seen or talked to her in at least 10 years - was to console me of your loss.

Other than Edwin, my running friend in Lufkin that you never met, the first two to call the morning after you passed were Kirk and Tommy.

I've gone through the words that I shared at your celebration of life service many times.

I wouldn't have taken away anything from what I shared, but I would have referenced that like running a marathon you endured some challenging miles.

Some I knew about then.  Others I didn't.

I learned recently about miles 3 - unbeknownst to our family - and especially the most challenging ones in miles 14-15.  I'm amazed now at how you persevered after the latter.

We'll never know this side of heaven why God chose to call you home, but we'll all keep praying that the load will be lightened from the difficult miles those of us still here endure until it is our time to see you again.

Love you and miss you!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Daily Walk: July 27, 2014

Yesterday's highlights included ...

1.  The red-headed princess made it home safely after working four Christian summer youth camps in Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.  First thing that she wanted to eat getting back in Texas?  Whataburger.  We had a great lunch catching up on a number of items.

2.  Fun and safe trip to Moulton to run a race - the Moulton Jamboree 5K - in my 100th Texas city or town.  Always good to broaden your experiences.

3.  Enjoyed the Astros and Marlins game with Robby Sabban, Jay Lee and Loren Sheffer of Texas Runner and Triathlete.  We didn't solve all of the problems of the running world, but we'll keep working on it.  :-)

Shout-outs to ...

4.  Friends competing in triathlons today from Switzerland to Canada.

5.  The Pittsburgh Passion for bringing another football championship to the Steel City by Winning the International Women's Football League championship over the Houston Energy last night in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

In other news ...

6.  Penn State hired a new athletic director in Sandy Barbour, the former University of California AD.  My concern is that this is more of a move to further appease the NCAA in an effort to - in the eyes of the NCAA - lessen the cited "Penn State football" culture.  Penn State athletics is so much more than the football program.  Anybody has to be better, though, than Dr. Dave Joyner.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Words Can Turn A Day Around; July 23, 2014

At the age of 47, I can't look back and say that I saw myself to be where I'm at.

I didn't think strategically that far ahead back many years ago.

I believe I'm like most people in that we're trying to take care of the most basic things as well as we can so that we may live life to our fullest - and to our calling.

Finding the latter, though, is sometimes the biggest challenge to the former.  I know it is with me.

I just had somebody that I consider to be a friend finish the Badwater 135 ultramarathon in California.

On a Facebook page of a race that I do work for and that they have been a loyal participant in and supporter of, we had been keeping up with his - and other veterans of the race's - efforts.

It is what I do (and most of the time - when I myself am not discouraged - believe it to be a calling):  recognize people's accomplishments.

The special ability and skill that God has given me to amass knowledge of people and what they do and then know when and where the most appropriate forum and time to dispel it is something that I even marvel at and am thankful to possess.

I also try to use it wisely, and it is one of the most-admired traits that I obtained from my grandfather.

At the same time, I'm challenged though by some - in many areas of my life - who seem to enjoy the spotlight in spite of their ethics, which at times is in a grey area.

Our sinful nature is to want to call them out in a grand way and at times, I've fallen victim to that in a veiled sense.

However, that's just as bad as the behavior I wish others would abstain from.

So trying to refrain from that in all things - absolutely the right thing to do - can at times be emotionally discouraging.

The feeling literally makes you want to give up, but, eh, that's not really healthy either.

So it's a battle.

And at times, we need that "pick me up" to know that we're doing things the right way -- and to keep it up.

The competitor wrote, "I wore my [race removed] socks to runner check-in and to get my runner mug shot taken.  In a sea of people trying to boast about their runs of such and such feet vertical (and) in an effort to one up each other, I prefer to promote the races that truly embody the spirit of running such as yours."

It was such a simple statement, but it blew me away.

Why?  Because the person that shared it is truly a grateful and humble individual (who also possesses amazing ability and perseverance).  Forget the fact that they offered it up less than 12 hours after they finished one of the toughest races in the world.

Just this past Saturday, I had a runner (or two) compliment me on some help that I provided a 5K that a race director friend of mine produced.

If you know me at all, you know I don't handle compliments well.

I've gotten better in just saying "Thank you" so I don't offend the person offering the praise.

My view is that if I'm asked to do something, I should do it to the best of my abilities -- and not for my own glory.

I know how to gain attention, but there's a lot of pressure -- external and self-inflicted -- that comes with it so my thought is, "Why bother?"

The best way for me to honor God without specifically proselytizing is to do my best for whomever I'm working for - whether it be for a living, a hobby or as a volunteer.

When I announce or perform media-related or public relations-related type functions, I'm doing my best to ensure that the event's image - while they handle their actions ethically - is presented as well as possible.

And by doing that, I'm entrusted with the opportunities to do more and handle more responsibility when and where it's appropriate.

It is a life lesson that I hope that my daughter continues to realize - and practice - in her life.

I think she gets it, but it is always nice to have healthy reminders of the things that we need to be doing well in our lives.

So my advice for the day is this:

1.)  You don't always have to be "out there".  I believe if your heart is in the right place as far as your motivations are concerned, God will take care of you when you don't necessarily need to be "out in front".

2.)  Be humble, grateful and thankful.  These aren't original themes, but they're ones that I need to remind myself the most of.

3.)  Don't operate in the gray.  You want people to question your motives and, subsequently, your actions?  Use slight of hand or be ambiguous and/or disingenuous.  People will quickly lose trust in you - as an individual or an entity that you represent.

4.)  If somebody truly does something that merits your praise, give it to them immediately, humbly and more times than not, privately.  Most people welcome words of encouragement that are genuine and aren't, as I like to say, "over the top".

If you've taken the time to read, thank you for your encouragement.

It has helped sustain me through - at times - what has been a challenging 2014.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Vacation Over; July 13, 2014

Vacation is over.  All in all, it was good, including nine minor league ballparks in eight days (see the complete list in the following post), but never as good as those that I've taken with the red-headed princess over the years.

I spoke with her Sunday afternoon as she was on her way to Cedarville, Ohio with the Lift Ministries team to work their third of four summer Christian youth camps.

June was busy, although many of you think that my life is always busy.

I made a trip home to see my grandmother in central Pennsylvania the first full weekend of the month.

It was the first that I had been home since my grandfather passed away on April 2nd.

Before Waverly left for four and a half weeks, we ran the Calder Twilight 5K together in Beaumont one Friday evening (saw Richard and Amie James there) before working the Sylvan Beach Triathlon and Duathlon in La Porte the next two days for Walt and Lisa Yarrow and Jay Lee.

I ran a 3-hour race in Abilene for an event in my 99th Texas city or town followed by announcing the 17th annual Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Triathlon for Andy Stewart.

I followed that with a long trip to Lubbock to primarily cheer on and support Bert and Krista Blevins as they both competed in the Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon.

Quietly and behind the scenes, they both have been a source of encouragement all this year, especially since my sister passed away on January 17.

It was the least that I could do to return that love and support to them for what they had done for me.

I did to get to run the Polish Pickle Run 5K in Bremond the day before - with many friends, primarily those from the Seven Hills Running Club in Huntsville - as well as seeing the new ballpark in Midland later that day.

Then it was the Baytown Bud Heat Wave on the Fourth of July before heading off on vacation later that afternoon.

One of my best friends, Bill Dwyer, and I had a chance to catch up to and from the race as Bill helped me and Robby Sabban and his team for the fourth straight year.

A special shout-out to Leanne Rosser's husband, Jim.

After an issue with the reader mat was resolved early in the Bud Heat Wave (so if I didn't call your name, that's why), Jim held the lap top - facing me - for probably a good half hour.

A pilot for Southwest Airlines, I got Jim to chuckle when I mentioned that we had "great support from Southwest Airlines here at the finish line".

I don't know of too many people that would have gone to that trouble to do that for me.

There's a lot in there that I missed.

I have a lot of half-finished race or trip reports that I need to complete and share, but this will have to do for now.

So what's coming down the pike?  A lot.

I will be at the 36th annual Lunar Rendezvous Run 5K in Clear Lake on Saturday morning.

It is what Robby and I are calling the first race in the "Friends of RAS Summer Race Series", which includes Outrigger's on the Bay 5K in Kemah on Saturday, August 2 and then the Beneeezy Purple Monkey Run 5K/10K in Alvin four weeks later.

I'm trying to get Waverly to run Outrigger's with me before she heads back for her sophomore year at Liberty University.  (So if you're reading Waverly, you need to let me know!)

Bill is putting together her a plan to be ready to run the Virginia 10-Miler with me on the last Saturday in September.  I can't wait.

She'll be running her first half marathon in nine years on New Year's Day at the Texas Half Marathon in Kingwood.

I'm also looking to finally get that 100th Texas city or town on Saturday, July 26.  I just don't know where yet.  I'm leaning towards Moulton, but we'll see.

A new bed that Waverly got for her birthday is being delivered the day before or on that day so we'll see.

Additionally, another one of my very best friends, Rick Cook, took care of my Dad with a couple of new pairs of shoes at Fleet Feet Sports in Shenandoah on Saturday.

Not that he's going to start running any time soon, but Rick's unparalleled sense of humor I know was a welcome, yet temporary respite to my parents in their grief of the loss of my sister.

I have much to be thankful for.

God didn't promise us that every day would be easy, but there are all kinds of promises that He has made to us if we are diligent to know and understand what they are.

Something that I know that I need to do a better job in realizing myself.

Back to work in the morning!


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Rough Seas Again; April 2, 2014

This was a pretty behind-the-scenes blog until my sister took ill and it provided the perfect outlet to keep everyone informed and up-to-date.

I’m thankful that I was able to be that kind of a resource to people.

Previously, it was my place to deal with some of the raw emotions of life.

As I stated before, despite my being out in the public eye in a couple of athletic communities, I’m a pretty private person who - 99% of the time - minds my own business.

And in exchange for that, I ask people to do the same with me.  If I don’t necessarily invite you in, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like you or care about you.  It just means that I don’t want to share.

Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Times are getting a little rough again for my family.

My grandfather, whose 91st birthday is later this month, is in very poor health.

My Dad’s sister is with my grandmother in central Pennsylvania now and my Dad is looking to get up there as soon as possible.

You stuff as much of this as you can, but it is still a challenge to manage all that needs to be managed.

In fact, as of 11:30 a.m. Central time, 24 hours isn’t likely to be given at this point.

We’ll get through it, but this isn’t going to be easy for all of us.

If you’re still out here reading, please keep us all in your prayers.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Struggling; February 10, 2014

I had a really, really good weekend, but today - Monday - I'm struggling.

I took an opportunity to get away and visit a pair of good friends in Louisiana and Alabama, and run a little bit too.

Well, probably a little more than I should have - and I'm paying for that today.

Work is going great.

Next to my daughter, right now, it is probably the second best thing in my life.

It can be a little boring and monotonous at times, but aside from the commute - and Houston drivers - it is not an area in my life that I have too much to complain about.

I think the biggest frustration is when I don't have what I need -- whether it be tangible items or the proper direction - to do some of the things that I do very, very well.

And this is in my "outside of work" world.

A major event is coming in 19 days and there's so much that needs to be done and determined, but one person is the gatekeeper for all of that - and their time is being sliced 28 ways right now.

It is simply frustrating.

I question whether I'll do it again, but that decision has many other ramifications.

And it would preclude me from doing some other events that I have enjoyed so far.

I wonder - at times - if it is all worth it.

I won't put my job that puts food on the table and keeps Waverly in school in jeopardy, but I don't - even as a volunteer (or something just shy of that) - like to be viewed as somebody who doesn't perform ... well.

The other area in my life that I'm struggling with is responding to other people's behavior -- and trying to completely cut those situations out of my life.

Actually, if I could just keep the tape of those people's actions from being on an auto-loop in my mind, that would be the absolute best.

I want to lash out at those people.  Very anrgily, actually.

It really wouldn't do accomplish anything - and it would ruin my character as well as a few other things, I'm sure.

Therefore, I have to stuff it and to try and mentally destroy the tape.  Or tapes rather.

What makes it all even harder is that when a person that is the one who has done the offending is well-liked by many and in a group of people that I have enjoyed being around, I have to sacrifice many of those relationships to keep from being around that individual.

Especially when I don't trust that person or anything that comes from their lips.

I don't have a poker face.  Therefore, I can't even hide indifference towards a particular person well.

I guess the bottom line is too:  I'm willing to give, but is the other person?  Often times, I find out that they aren't.  Which is too bad.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Road Ahead; January 24, 2014

Solumn and somber are the two words that best describe how I feel right now after my sister's passing.

Utter disbelief is also a two-word feeling that is prevalent right now too.

The events of Friday to Tuesday were whirlwind, and things are slowly returning back to what they once were - minus my sister.

I made the rounds Wednesday  to each of the four Chick-Fil-A locations that were giving 20% of their sales to my brother-in-law and the girls and thanked their management that was on-site at the time.

It was the least that I could do.

At the FM 2920@Kuykendahl location, I had a spicy chicken breakfast burrito at about 10 a.m.  I talked to store owner Mike Ludwig briefly as he was in the middle of an interview.  I was glad that they let me pay to play a small part in the support.

I had lunch with a good friend of mine at the Alden Bridge location - she bought; thanks Beth! - and had the six-piece Chick-Fil-A nuggets with a large diet coke.  The store owner's wife Jenni Skipper was there and talked to her and one of their managers, Ryan.

Beth and I spent a good amount of time there catching up.  We've been friends since some time in 2006 while she and Holly became friends in the last year or two.

I then went to the Magnolia location near Egypt Rd. and FM 1488 and had a large chocolate shake.  I met their manager, Joelle Spencer, and thanked her -- and found out that she is a very good friend of mine, Karen Felicidario.

And, finally, after running 3.25 miles on the track with some very good friends of mine, I ended up at the Louetta Rd. and I-45 location to have the 12-piece Chick-Fil-A nuggets for dinner, again with the large diet coke.

Our church's youth group went by there and supported the cause as well as a high school classmate of mine - Sylvia Torres - whose sister got many, many flower orders (at her company, Always Floral) -- and that she actually helped to prepare.  Her sister did the beautiful display of red roses -- or "celebrity roses" as they were described to me Monday night -- that sat on top of the casket.

Phew!  Four Chick-fil-A's in one day.

I like the food, but not "that" much to do that again anytime soon.

Yesterday, I went back to work.

I worked a little over 11 hours and since a lot of my work is heads-down, getting back into the swing of things was pretty easy and without a lot of disruption.

My client is excellent.  I had a call from the person that I directly report to on Tuesday evening.  He's an EMT and was able to share things with him during the week as they transpired to get a clinical understanding of what was happening with my sister.

His fellow director had a total understanding of what was going on with my sister because they had a similar situation - with a relative - in which ECMO saved that person's life.

When I arrived yesterday morning, she had left a sympathy card on my desk.

Not expecting to have seen my manager in town (as they live in South Carolina), I had sent them an e-mail that I was back to work, but their reply this morning was to remind me to "stay busy".

They said Thursday morning that they had suffered a similar loss in their past.

One of our local training groups, Volte Endurance Training, headed up by my best friend, Bill Dwyer, had sent some flowers yesterday.

I'm not the biggest flower person in the world, but they were pretty and the vase turned out to be one of the team's colors.  I really appreciated their thoughtfulness as well as a lot of individual one-on-one attention that their group had given me.

And that's the type of person that I am -- a one-on-one individual.

I'd rather spend time alone than have anything - whether it be a group or an individual even - forced upon me.  I'm not a control freak, but I am an introvert and like my space.

(There's probably somebody ruling me out of a job over this ... but, it would be their loss.)

That being said, I certainly don't want to discourage people from reaching out.  There may be times that I have to say to folks in the interim that I may be a little longer in getting back with them, that's all.

Otherwise, it is day by day and one foot in front of other - just like before.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Celebration Service Tribute to my Sister; January 22, 2014

First of all, on behalf of our families, I’d like to thank you all for your generous support of our families these last two weeks and, of course, your incredible outpouring of prayers and love towards and for Holly.

When we met with the folks from Rosewood on Sunday, Brent asked Mr. Horner, “How many does your chapel hold?” He said, “About 250.” We all looked at each other, and like the line in the movie, “Jaws”, where Roy Schneider says, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” we thought to ourselves, “We’re going to need a bigger chapel!”

When I was a young boy at Northwood Baptist Church in Pennsylvania, before we ever moved to Texas, and maybe even right about the time Holly was born, our Pastor there, Bro. Walker would greet us on the way out each Sunday and I used to recite this verse, James 4:14:

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away.”

We’ve been reminded much these past two weeks how fast things can change in our lives, especially with the ones that we love.

My parents over time had each circled one verse in my Bible.

My Dad’s was Matthew 25:15, “And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability and straightway took his journey.”

Judging by the turnout last night as well as today, one of the many talents that my sister took along her journey was the ability to make us all feel comfortable and loved.

Yet it takes an even more special person to separate money from one’s wallet or purse – and all of ours are a bit lighter today because of Holly.

Where do I start?

Gift cards. Wrapping paper. Chick-fil-A calendars. Mary Kay. Avon.

Here’s an oldie, but goodie, Pampered Chef.

And, of course, the latest rage, Scentsy Candles, and who could forgot the cookie dough.

I think my Mom said the other day even, “No, please, no more cookie dough.”

Equally head-turning, I think, were the number of different jobs that Holly possessed over the years. I never quite knew at any given time where Holly actually worked.

I mean, I run. I “collect states” meaning that I’m trying to run a marathon in all 50 states.

Holly, she not only collected jobs, W-2s and 1099s, but something about cows and Tim McGraw concerts.

I really don’t want to make any of you jealous today, but Holly would have flipped if she knew that Tim McGraw sent flowers to Rosewood yesterday.

Seriously, though, Holly connected us all.

I think I saw it on Twitter the other day that they were going to rename the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” to the “Six Degrees of Holly Munsinger”.

I found out last week I had a friend in our running community who was married to a classmate of Holly’s at Spring and lives across the street from one of Holly’s friends that was in her wedding.

And last night even, a high school classmate of mine’s sister was friends of Brent and Holly through the Spring-Klein Chamber of Commerce.

Most importantly, Holly made our family feel special and loved.

We didn’t just go to Brent and Holly’s for birthday parties and our holiday gatherings because their house’s layout was more open and a little bit bigger, but it was because that those moments were full of love, laughter and joy that Holly’s gregarious laugh and glowing smile was always the center of.

But I can let one secret out of the bag now, I guess: Chick-fil-A is to beef what Holly was to a kitchen.

Even though we had five and a half years between us, we had many commonalities – that is, other than the world-famous Walk stubborn gene.

That ability to connect with people came from our father and grandfather -- or Pappy and Old Papa as my daughter and nieces call them.

Neither one of them, I don’t think, especially, our grandfather, has met a person that they couldn’t start up a conversation with. And when they start … look out.

Holly was the same way.

But we both got more of our abilities to love and have compassion for others from our mother and our grandmother – Gom and Great Gom.

Three years ago, we worked together – with the store’s owners - to produce a 5K at the one Chick-fil-A that she worked at which was the most perfect event that I had been involved in.

That is, until God called Holly home last Friday for us to put together the events yesterday and today that I won’t – and I hope you won’t -- ever forget.

I’ll close with this. I announce at a lot of road races in the area.

Awhile back when Holly lost a lot of weight, she was lightly jogging on the treadmill a little bit before her doctor advised her that she shouldn’t do it anymore.  [I added in the ceremony that Holly had rods in her back when she was 18 for scoliosis.]

So I never had the opportunity to announce her name as she approached a finish line, but as she has finished the race of life, I’m going to take that opportunity this morning:

Finishing in a personal best time of 41 years, five months and 20 days – a time that we all hoped would have been much, much longer – Holly … Jo … Munsinger.

Holly, you ran an incredible race, full of love and happiness.

You finished first in all of our hearts.

We love you, I love you and we’ll miss you until God calls us home too.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

We Lost Her; January 18, 2014

First of all, please respect our families by not posting this link in any social media, for the time being.

I know that many have communicated that you looked here every day, so I figured some would look this morning for some official confirmation of your worst fear.

That being said, there are some things that you just don't expect to witness in your life.

There are also some phone calls and conversations that you also never expect to make.

I experienced both of those last night, as did my brother-in-law.  (The key word in that statement is "both" and I'll be able to explain that at a later time.)

There will be hundreds, even thousands of questions of "Why?" in the days, weeks, months and even years to come.

The fact is:  We really don't know.

At times we think we will, but we really won't know for sure until it is time for those of us who have accepted Christ as our personal Saviour and have passed ourselves to Heaven.

In the days and weeks to come, we all will experience periods of anger, shock and disbelief as a result of a life taken from us all too soon.

Reach out and do your best to find somebody that you love and care for to help you love yourself through them.

It is still a time to continue to pray and reflect and examine our own lives.

And some will wonder, "Why didn't all of our prayers work?"

I don't have that answer either.

I like to think that everyone's prayers helped keep her fighting to the end, and she indeed put up a good fight, but I don't know how God works those things.

Thank you to each and every one of you who reached out, communicated with us, prayed for and with us, did things for each member of our families and most importantly, loved us.

We'll all continue to need your love for awhile, especially the girls, my brother-in-law and my parents.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Today's Update On My Sister; January 16, 2014

My favorite song on Christian radio today is called “Help Me Find It” by a group called the Sidewalk Prophets.

It was really a joy to hear Waverly sing it on her last Sunday before she left to go to Liberty University in August.

The song is about us letting go as believers and allowing God to handle things in our life and lead us in the direction He wants us to go – or to follow his perfect will.

It struck a note with me on the drive home from the hospital a short while ago in that it is what we can ask God to continue to lead the doctors and the nurses in finding out what in my sister’s body is resisting everyone’s best efforts to help her.

I don’t know where to go from here
As long as I know that You are near
I’m done fighting
I’m finally letting go

Even if her body would stop fighting, there’s still a period of time that is needed for her lungs to get stronger so she can come off the ventilator.

Right now, she’s getting 100% oxygen through the ventilator.

That needs to get down to 60% before the doctor can do something different, is what my brother-in-law shared with me this evening.

Her applied PEEP (positive end-expiratory pressure), which is set on the ventilator, needs to come down to 5.  It has been down as low as 10 for a period of time, but when I left this evening it was at 16.

My brother-in-law said that earlier they’ve tried different combinations of oxygen rate and PEEP settings to see if there’s something that her body will handle satisfactorily.

So, basically, the values of 60% and 5 need to occur together for her to attempt to come off the ventilator and breathe under her own power.

Whenever they attempt to move her in any significant manner, her vitals continue to go all over the place.  Heart rate shoots to the 130 bpm range, saturation level drops and she also continues to run a fever from time to time.

When I got there this evening after work, she was running a 102 fever.  It is my understanding that when you have a fever that your body requires more oxygen.

Additionally, the infectious disease doctor is changing up the antibiotics to keep her body from accepting one and therefore inhibiting the suppression and elimination of the infection that’s been in her lungs, which created the pneumonia.

Even when it hurts, You’ll have Your way
Even in the valley I will say
With every breath
You’ve never let me go

We certainly believe that God hasn’t let her go at all.  He’s still working.

My brother-in-law also shared with me this evening that the head nurse during the day told him that she’s been doing research on her own to see if there’s something that they may be missing from an antibiotic that may help my sister.

Still her organs are good and strong although the doctor told my Dad that he was going to begin to get a little bit more aggressive and that he basically wanted her to pee – well – like a horse.  

There was also some discussion to see if they could bring a mobile CT scan into the room, but my brother-in-law hadn’t heard if that is something that they’re still going to try and do – since he doesn’t want to move her.

And I believe that I heard that there were some concerns of the quality of the image in how she is positioned.

So basically a lot is still up in the air.

As I shared in how the doctor communicated with my parents and my brother-in-law, I wish that I had better news to share with you.

My prayer is and will continue to be that God will reveal to the doctors and the nurses the answer to unlock the mystery of what seems to be keeping my sister from getting over the proverbial hump.

We know that a lot of you have shared that these updates are very important to you.

My objective is to give you the information necessary to pray to God for His guidance and direction.

And, of course, our families know that you all would be at the hospital if there were reasons that we couldn’t be there.

I don’t think there’s been a time that my sister has been left unattended since she went into the MICU.

My brother-in-law is spending the night tonight.

His stepmother will be pulling her second night tomorrow evening.  We really appreciate that – and her willingness to help my parents and my brother-in-law out.

As I referenced yesterday, I posted a prayer request on KSBJ’s web site.  This is what I shared:

Last Sunday, January 5, my sister, who is in her very early 40s, entered the hospital with pneumonia and was rushed to MICU late the next evening when her lungs filled with fluid from the infection. She is intubated and in her 9th day today in the MICU while the physicians continue to find the right combination of paralytics and antibiotics to allow her body to rest and allow the ventilator to do its job. We know that God is in complete control of the situation and we would simply ask for continued prayer for the doctors, nurses and clinicians to do all that they've been trained and have experience to do as well as for my brother-in-law, two nieces (freshman in high school and the third grade) and parents as their hearts - along with many friends and other family - are heavy for my sister to get well. Thank you in advance for stopping and taking the time to pray for my sister and her family.

There was probably another half dozen people who clicked on a link to let me know that they have prayed specifically for my sister.

However, I received an actual note from someone.  It went as follows:

I have been praying for God's healing hands upon your sister. She is in my daily prayers. Even though I do not know her personally, I definitely know who she is from Spring High. I know she's a wonderful person. Just know many are praying for <name removed> and her entire family!

As you can see from above, I really didn’t give any identifying information, but they knew exactly who it was.  This is why I haven’t given up hope.

Here’s also another specific prayer request.

It was shared with my Dad that the lower part of her lungs are becoming “leathery”.  I’m thinking that this will restrict her lung’s ability to process oxygen, but I’m not totally sure.  Therefore, we need to fully understand it.

I think this is all I can communicate this evening.

Our administrative friend, who is the CEO of another hospital in the system, stopped by to visit earlier today after making a call to the administrative team at the hospital where she's at.  Yesterday, the COO (Chief Operating Officer) had stopped in to check on things and spoke to my Mom while she was there with my sister.

Thanks again for everything – your prayers and thoughts toward everyone involved.


Brief Morning Update and Thoughts; January 16, 2014

One of the good things about a blog – as opposed to posting to a Facebook status – is that you can share some more minute information without inundating people.

After a certain while, they know about the blog – and then they can come here for more specific updates (or to see if anything had been added and not “publicized”, if you will).

And here’s an example of why not every single little thing is shared, as it happens.

And that’s because there are so many little battles going on in my sister’s body as it fights to be restored to full health.

My Dad e-mailed me at about 7:30 a.m. earlier this morning after I had forwarded to him and my Mom today’s Max Lucado mailer titled, “Doing What Comes Naturally”.

That mailer included the following – and I think you’ll be able to see why I sent it to them as encouragement:

“My child’s feelings are hurt, I tell her she’s special. My child’s injured, I do whatever it takes to make her feel better. My child’s afraid, I won’t go to sleep until she’s secure. I’m not a hero. I’m not unusual. I’m a parent. When a child hurts, a parent does what comes naturally. He helps.

“Moments of comfort from a parent. I can tell you they’re the sweetest moments in the day. They come naturally, willingly, joyfully. If all that’s so true, then why am I so reluctant to let my heavenly Father comfort me?”

“Being a father has taught me that when I’m criticized, injured, or afraid, there’s a Father who’s ready to comfort me. A Father who’ll hold me until I’m better. And who won’t go to sleep when I’m afraid. Ever! And that’s enough.”

My Dad wrote, “Right after you left (which was about 10 p.m.), her respiration rate started to drop and went to the mid 80’s for about an hour.  Never have prayed as hard for an hour.”

“Owen (the male nurse) was concerned and a prn breathing treatment didn’t help.

“He called the doctor and it was just wait and see.  And finally it went back up into the low 90’s.

“Later she had another fever and Tylenol brought it down.  So another rough night, but she is stable again.”

Which, of course, is something to be thankful for – and to continue to pray for.

Stability, and then progress.

I responded back to him once I made it to the office.

I wrote, “Keep praying, Dad -- even if it is the same words.  I think God is more concerned what we believe in our hearts as opposed to the words that come out of our mouth.

“There's this one song on Christian radio today that says, "When you don't know what to say ... just say, "Jesus".  There's still power in His name."

I believe that.  Do you?

It is also encouraging to know there are folks praying for my sister all over the country.

At Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia where my daughter goes to school.

In Pennsylvania, where my grandparents live.

In Missouri, where we my sister and I have friends who are our church’s original pastor’s son and his wife.

What other locations, outside of Texas, are folks praying for my sister from?

Please leave a comment – and thank you for each and every prayer – for her, the doctors, nurses and caregivers, my brother-in-law, his two daughters and my parents.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

More Time, More Prayers; January 15, 2014

Once again, I can't tell you enough about how thankful I am for each one of you and the prayers and/or support that you're providing for my sister, brother-in-law, two nieces and my parents.

When I go for my nightly visit, after work, I'm not only doing my best to be calm and to engage whoever is there at the moment (to take their mind a little off of things), but to also listen acutely enough to capture a synopsis of the day to share with all of you.

First of all, these are some things that we can praise God for:

1.  My sister has a strong heart.  She does not have to have a cardiologist in the active mix at this time.

2.  Her urine output has been strong and consistent (I personally witnessed the male nurse dumping almost a full bottle in the toilet ... OK, maybe a little "tmi") and signaling that her kidneys are functioning normally.

3.  Her liver is also functioning normally at this time.

As organ failure can be a risk with what she is going through right now, these are things that we can continue to ask God to remain strong until she gets completely well.

The pulmonary doctor is lead and my Dad felt as if he's been more upbeat today than he has been in the last two days.

He is somebody that my Dad is very comfortable with in that he feels that he is very compassioniate and has even hugged my Mom and put his hand on my brother-in-law's shoulder and said that he knows that he hasn't always been bringing the best hoped for news at times.

We can be thankful for this as well as excellent nursing and other professional care, such as the respiratory care staff, around the clock.  They've also been very, very compassionate, friendly and communicative as to what they're doing to my sister at all times.

I watched one nurse literally take what closely resembled a toothbrush and move it around the tube that is in my sister's mouth and work it around to - in essence - brush her teeth (although I'm sure there was something more significant that they were doing.)  It was a thankless, yet incredible job that they're doing.

When I arrived at about 8:15 p.m. earlier this evening, her "breaths per minute" number was down to 16 - a certain answer to prayer, but, of course, it is only one piece of the puzzle.  (It later went up after they did something to her that I'll describe below.)

The reason that the doctor wanted to (and wants to) do the CT scan I learned is because he wants to make sure that he isn't missing anything.

The challenge has been, though, that when they have lowered my sister's bed back to where she is completely flat on her back -- as she would need to be to go into a CT tube -- her vitals have started to pull out of line (i.e. heart rate increases to in between 120-130 bpm) and her oxygen saturation has gone down.

Before they came up with a new paralytic (rocuronium, I believe), they had been turning her on her sides every six hours in an effort to increase her oxygenation levels.

However, in an effort to get her body to relax, they stopped doing this.

But in an effort to improve her lung function and to benefit in the removal of any retained secretions in her lungs, they have begun to use what's known as a Vest Airway Clearance System.  Click here to read more about it.

A belt is placed around her midsection and the machine blows air through the belt to literally shake her body in an attempt to dislodge mucus from the bronchial walls, and mobilize secretions and mucus to larger airways so it can be suctioned out, in my sister's case.

Her body didn't respond to it too well earlier today and she lasted six (6) minutes - out of 10 -- as her heart rate got to 130 bpm and her oxygen saturation level dropped to 85%.

It's as if her body doesn't want to let it do anything that is good for it!  :-)

Certainly something that we can continue to pray about, I think.

The flu patients who have been in the MICU where she's at - according to a couple of the nurses who have been caring for her - have been on a path of about 12-14 days before they've started to turn the corner and we are into the 10th day as of late this evening.

Even though you may feel like you've been praying the same each day, please continue to do so.

I put my sister's situation on KSBJ's Prayer Works site - without any specific identifying name references - and I had five (5) people who took the time to click on a link to send a message to say that they prayed for my sister and our families.  I'm thankful to each one of those who took that time to ask God to heal her and care for those that loved her dearly.

And thank you again for the family who is taking care of my two nieces while my brother-in-law is having to work.  I don't want to draw attention to them by name, but a continued "thank you".

I know that my youngest niece is going to be able to get out of town for the weekend and compete in her cheerleading competition as she was able to make practice this week, thanks to a friend of my sister who has three girls that will be competing as well.

And I just want to say how proud I am of my oldest niece as she deals with what her Mom is going through during this challenging time.

They both are talented young ladies of whom their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and family are very, very proud of.

Please continue to pray for my parents.  My Dad's faith is being severely tested and, of course, my Mom's heart just seems to break - as any mother's would.

And for my brother-in-law.  He just keeps getting it all done - without too much sleep.  A good man.

Thanks for listening and continuing to pray and asking for God's perfect will in this situation.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Dash of Stubbornness; January 14, 2014

If you've ever met a Walk, you know that there's a tendency of stubbornness that exists in each and every one of us.

Some of us more than others and at times, it comes on as strong as can be!

My sister, right now, continues to display hers and -- we all need her to stop!  :-)

As I referenced last evening, she's been trying to outwork the ventilator.

Her doctor wants her to get down to 18 breaths per minute; however, she, at times, has been as high as 28 bpm.

(When I left this evening, she was down to 21, which is as low as I've seen it since she's been in MICU.)

In an attempt to get her body to relax, the doctors have given her a paralytic.

As with many drugs (and I'm not a clinician although I work in the health care setting), there's a certain dosage or strength.

When I hadn't heard anything from my Dad today, I was slightly concerned so I was prepared for the full range of scenarios when I made it to the hospital through the middle of the evening (and after the MICU was opened back up to visitors).

What I learned was too complex to put into a text message.

When the doctor visited this morning, it was determined that the paralytic that was being used wasn't strong enough to paralyze her enough to get her breaths per minute down.  (My physician friends will correct me - please - if I don't get this explained exactly correct.)

The way my Dad explained it:  the clinicians were stumped.

He indicated that they had a conference with the critical care pharmacist and they literally came up with a concoction of two drugs that weren't in the hospital's formulary and were doing manual calculations to determine how much they would be able to give her.

I may offend here, but it is not my intention to.  If I do, I sincerely apologize.

If you're a believer in and a follower of Christ, this - to me - is evidence that God is in control of the situation - and He wants us to all completely put our trust in Him.

The nurses that I have encountered at the facility that my sister is in do a very good job in communicating what they're doing.

I told the nurse that was in her room caring for her before I left that I was trusting her 100%.

The way I see it:  I have to (unless something, of course, is so blatantly obvious that doesn't make sense) as I don't have their chosen field of training, experience and passion to care for others.

We were told early on that this was going to be a long process.

We would ask that you pray - in addition for the doctors and nurses to be able to perform their duties according to their training and expertise -- specifically for my sister's body to rest to allow her breaths per minute to get to a point and remain stable so the options to help get her well have less potential risk.

I don't remember the specific need for a CT scan, but there's a hesitancy to even transfer her one floor lower because her body needs to be more at rest.

A process known as ECMO - which I know recently was instrumental in saving the life of a young girl in our area who contracted the pneumonia as a result of H1N1 - has been put on the table as a potential option.

However, since the facility doesn't have the machine needed for this procedure (although it has certified clinicians in the process), a transfer downtown would be necessary -- and there's already a waiting list to get that care with the use of the device.

Plus a transfer to another facility is a great challenge if there's concern of going one floor down in the same building.

My father did learn through an administrative friend of ours that there's another facility in town that have these devices, but they aren't keen on renting them and would desire the patient (and the revenue associated with them).

I share this to guide your prayers, not to flame that facility in comments, etc.

I would ask that you respect my reason for sharing this with you - and refrain from any public rebuke in social media.  (Thank you.)

A friend of my sister and brother-in-law was spending the night tonight in my sister's room to give my parents and brother-in-law a chance to rest - even though my brother-in-law has had to return to work (but at least he's been able to arrange to be local as opposed to being on the road.)

We appreciate her willingness to do so and there are other offers to do the same.  And we thank you for that.

Thank you again for all of your prayers and those of you who have reached out and made yourself available to our families.

We greatly appreciate your generosity, kindness, love, concern and care for my sister, brother-in-law, their two daughters (my two nieces) and my parents.


Monday, January 13, 2014

My Sister's Medical Update; January 13, 2014

Thank you again for each and every one of you who has been praying for my sister - who was admitted to the hospital on Sunday, Jan. 5 with the pneumonia and moved to MICU the following evening, her husband and two daughters and my parents.

As you can imagine, it has been a challenging time for all.

I haven't been providing updates the last couple of days because I wanted to respect individual's news feeds and the changes - at time - in her condition have been minute and would have taken a lot of specific, detailed explanation to communicate.

The best thing to pass along then became, "Please continue to pray for all involved."

As a man and as my sister's brother, I want to fix things, but in this situation I can't.  Nor can anybody that's reading this and not involved in her clinical care.

I have to exercise my faith and place my trust in God, the doctors and nurses who are providing her care and the drugs and equipment that are being used - in the right combination and dosages - to help her get well.

As my brother-in-law and I spoke in her room on Sunday evening, it is like watching a shell game in play; however, a delicate life -- one that is loved by many -- hangs in the balance.

She had slowly been making baby steps, but had some small setbacks on Sunday and Monday mornings.

Her body has been trying to outbreath the ventilator, which has numerical measures on how hard she and the machine is working.  It has always been a gap of about seven (7) or eight (8).  When I left this evening, it was a range of two to three.

They've been adjusting her paralytic to try to allow her body to rest to keep it from trying to outwork the machine.

Yet, an applied positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) of 14 is much higher than the doctors would like this at this point in the process.  It had been as low as 10 last evening; however, it is desired to get to five (5) or below.

I would go into more details, but some would be inclined to do a little reading and ask questions -- more than likely the same that we're asking the doctors as far as the future direction and options in her care.

However, I think it is safe to say that those options are varied and run the gamut.

Some aren't easy to think about, let alone discuss.

I continue to express my appreciation of and pride in how my brother-in-law is handling everything.

It is very, very hard on him, yet he is doing it well - and, at times, with little sleep.

His two girls - my two nieces - are staying with friends who recently moved back to Texas in the last two to three months.  They have three girls of their own.

My family appreciates what they are doing to support my sister's family.

It is also tough to see the stress that it is putting on my parents.

When I got the initial call last Tuesday, my Dad - the Marine - was as rattled as I've ever heard him in my 47 years of life -- even with him having gone through as many back procedures as he has over the years.

Yet I teared up this evening as I saw him tell my sister "Good night" for the evening -- and that he loved her.

And we've, unfortunately, in the midst of this situation, have heard pieces of misinformation out and about as well as one vile post -- on a message board, reportedly -- that simply has to be left with God to deal with.

Knowing that you're praying for our families and you allowing me to share with you this information has allowed me to be calm and collected to support my brother-in-law, nieces and parents where and when necessary.

Please trust me that our families covet your prayers and that God will be in complete control of the entire situation.

Thank you for allowing me to share -- and thank you for being a part of my family's life.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Birthday Recap; January 6, 2014

47.  I'm sure glad I don't feel it.

Yesterday was a really nice day, with the exception of learning that my sister needed to be admitted to the hospital for pneumonia.

My brother-in-law was five (5) hours away hunting, getting away from a busy, stressful time at his place of employment, and my Mom had to go help her and take her to a free-standing ER clinic first and then to the hospital.

Despite that, Waverly and I had a chance to spend the day doing things that we've grown to enjoy doing over the years.

It started with breakfast at The Egg & I in Shenandoah, our local favorite.  We have a couple of favorites in Lynchburg - especially Market at Main - when I go and visit her at college.

She went to choir practice and Sunday School while I went home and worked on a few things and then we were both in church together.

It is always an incredible joy and source of pride and thankfulness to watch her worship God while singing as part of the praise and worship team.

With my Dad engaging our guest speaker, Dr. Jerry Thorpe, that she attended Liberty University before she got out of Sunday School, he took the opportunity to introduce himself to her before the service - and all of us learned that Dr. Thorpe is on Liberty's Board of Trustees' Seminary Committee with co-founder Dr. Elmer Towns.

I went to the gym to workout for an hour and completed an errand before both of us went to the monthly Sunday Night 5K, hosted by The Woodlands Running Club (nee Bill Dwyer) at Barbara Bush Elementary.

These 3.1 miles would replace those that she has ru every year with me since 2007 at the end of the Chevron Houston Marathon.  If I toe the line and make it that far, I will certainly miss her not being there waiting for me.

We decided just to run the race nice and easy, but we also wanted to make sure we finished ahead of Seven Hills Running Club legend Ken Johnson, who shares a birthdate with Waverly and just finished his 100th marathon on New Year's Day.

Waverly ran nice and steady and went 21:28.42 through the first two miles - a 10:44 pace.

Even though she needed to take quick blows four or five times, and not having done any cardio in about three weeks, she delivered a PR time of 33:41.27 -- 37 seconds better than the race (Poplar Forest 5K; 34:18) we ran together in Lynchburg on Saturday, October 12.

It represented a pace of 10:50 per mile, which is in between the 10:34 per mile she ran on Thanksgiving Day for five miles (her fastest pace ever at any distance) and the 11:02 per mile of her previous 5K best.

It is really fun to see her more through an improved fitness stage.  She enjoys running around campus while she's at school, just to get out of her dorm room and enjoy the beauty of the commonwealth of Virginia.

We went home, got cleaned up and then had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, a semi-expensive favorite of ours in The Woodlands.  (Well, semi-expensive if you have the cheesecake, but it was my birthday.)

I enjoy having the time to discuss life with her and we talked more about some of her goals for the next three years as she wants to move into Student Leadership next year and serve as a Prayer Group Leader.  Then she would like to become a Resident Assistant (RA) in her final two years.

It is great to see her set her sights on actions which will serve and meet the needs of others in their day-to-day and spiritual lives.

When we made it back to the house, she gave me a card, a Chris Tomlin CD (one further back then his most current "Burning Lights" release) and a calendar - that I have hanging in the kitchen area - where she culled together photographs that both took a look back at the past year and also looked forward to the year ahead.

I'm thankful to have her plans to travel back for Spring Break already taken care of as well as a visit from me the weekend of February 22-23 and then for her Mom to fly up on Wednesday, May 7 to help her drive home for the summer.

Forever how long she's going to be home, that is.

She wants to make a return trip to Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) in late May and early June followed by six weeks of working in church youth camps all over the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.

Am excited to watch her set out to achieve it.

All in all, it was hard to top a day like that.

The clutter was pruned away.  Something I've been trying to do each and every day, and more and more, I've been succeeding.  And, for that, I'm thankful.

I heard from lots of friends on the phone, in person, via text messages, Twitter and Facebook who wished me "Happy Birthday".  Each one, even those that came early, was greatly appreciated - and reminds me how fortunate I am.

There were one or two that I wished I would have heard from, but there's always next year, right?