Tuesday, March 21, 2017

well... shit.

I am superstitious.  It's not something I talk about often because 1) it's crazy and 2) something bad might happen if I talk about being superstitious.

Rewind my life to November of 2015, I got a job with the Department of Health.  After a long run of unemployment, I was ready to not jinx any new opportunities coming to my life.  With a new start in a fun career, I did not want to take any risks.  I was not going to let Life find out I was happy because then it would have a chance to take it away.

So I froze.

I went quiet.

I thought that if I didn't write about the fun I was having then it wouldn't go away.  It was like adjusting the TV antennas during a favorite program and finding the right placement but the static returns as soon you let go and walk away.  Life was finally in focus and I liked it.

I still like it.  I love my job.  I have great coworkers.  I get to work downtown in the civic center and see all the cool buildings every day.


I get to drive a big truck all around the city and hunt mosquitoes.

We got a car.  We go explore the city an surrounding areas more.  We go see Kim's family on a regular basis.  We can easily get all of our Costco stuff home.

We moved into a new apartment.  Well, new to us.  It doesn't have leaky ceilings and we have bedrooms!  More than one bedroom!!!  We no longer share a bedroom!

We really like our ward.  They are great.  They accept us as we are.

We have made some incredible friends and had great times with them.

Life was good, and Life decided it was time for a change.

In February I went to my Urologist for an exam.  I knew from the expression on his face that I had cancer again.  My first thought was: shit.

My thoughts for the next hour were: shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.

I had my turn with cancer.  It was time for someone else to get it, not me.  This really, really sucks.  But after some crying, soul searching, praying, crying, insomnia, and talking with friends, I think I am ready to start this all over again.

I'm fortunate to have decent insurance that has Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in network.  I got in right away.  I have some of the best doctors and nurses in the world on my side.  I have a great job that is understanding and flexible with my leave.  I have a wonderful wife who is by my side.  I have a terrific kid who encourages me each day to be brave.  I have dedicated friends who have stepped up so I could rest.

So on the eve of my surgery to start this entire process I have come to the conclusion that my first round of cancer taught me to be strong, and my second round of cancer will teach me how to lean.  I will lean on you because I cannot do this on my own.

If you pray, I will accept your faith.

If you sing, I will listen to your songs.

If you write, I will read your words.

If you cook, I will eat your food.

If you meditate, I will share your peace.

If you cry, I will join your tears.

If you laugh, I will laugh along.

If you hug, please hug my family.

There is a stanza from my favorite poem that makes a lot more sense to me these days.  Whittier wrote "and so beside the silent sea I wait the muffled oar, no harm from Him can come to me on ocean or on shore".  I used to think that the muffled oar was death coming to take us away.  I now see that the muffled oar is just another day of life that sometimes takes us to shore and sometimes takes us out to sea.  It's happening,  I can pretend it isn't, but it is.  I don't know where I am going or where I will end up, but I know that I am in good hands.

(who would have thought it would take cancer to get me to write on this blog again?)
((Kim sends out an email with updates, if you want to get in on the list, email her kimberlyegbert@gmail.com)

Monday, November 09, 2015

Hidden Things

It's been a rough week for Mormons.  Some Mormons are hurt; some are happy; some are indignant, and some are just wondering what the hell is happening.

I'm sad.  I'm worried about my friends, and I am worried about my church.

I want to believe that this mess is going to get better, that the church leadership will come to a new understanding--a compassionate understanding of inclusion.  I want to believe that my fellow members of the church on all sides of this division will lower their proverbial pitchforks.

But it probably won't.

Yesterday an Elder's Quorum instructor shared a scripture that resonated with me.  We weren't discussing the current controversy, but I learned something that applies anyway.

D&C 101: 32-36 reads:
Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things--Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof--Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.  And all they who suffer persecution for my name and endure in faith, though they are called to lay down their lives for my sake yet shall they partake of all this glory,  Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full. (emphasis mine)

"They who suffer persecution for my name" caught my attention, and I reread the passage several times.  When we think of those that suffered persecution, we think of Joseph Smith and the early church members who were killed, beaten, and chased from town to town.  We think of modern missionaries who are taunted as they share the news of the gospel.  We tend to think that only God's servants suffer.  But what happens when God's servants are not the persecuted but the persecutors?

I saw a different image each time I read the scripture.  I saw those that are persecuted by members of the church.  I saw families hurting by those acting in the name of God.  I saw suffering.

I'm not as kind as I aspire, and I certainly don't have the authority to change church policy, but I can help those who hurt.  I can speak out against the persecution.  I can open my arms to those who need a friend.  Most importantly, I will witness, and I will comfort.


Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Thing About Compassion

I learned something new about compassion from an old white guy the other day.  No, it wasn't the pope, nor was it a Mormon leader.  It was this guy:


It turns out that Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise has some pretty life lessons to share.  I am a big fan of Star Trek, The Next Generation.  There are many opinions regarding the best series, but this post is not about the merits of the various captains but about the lesson I learned from Picard.

Season 5 episode 23 is titled "I, Borg."  The Enterprise finds a lone survivor from the Borg collective (an alien race of cyborgs who assimilate entire races into their ships and destroy all individuality) at a crash site and bring him on the ship.  Jean-Luc does not like the Borg.  In a previous season he was abducted by the Borg and painfully turned into one of them.  He was later saved by his crew, but he despises the Borg and sees this surviving member as an opportunity to destroy the entire race.  Through the episode Picard comes to see this rescued survivor as a person in need of help and returns him to the Borg without a doomsday virus.

This episode struck a chord with me because I watched it the day after the Pope met with the Kentucky County Clerk refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  I don't know what they talked about, and I don't know why they met, but it really bothered me.  I thought that there are plenty of people more deserving of a papal visit than this woman, and that she did not need another day in the spotlight.  That is when I learned something about compassion.

Compassion is a concern for the well being of others.  It isn't just about concern for the people we like; it is a concern for all people.  It is easy to care for the sick, poor, and disabled.  Actually, let me rephrase that: it is not easy to care for the sick, poor, and disabled, but we do it anyways.  I can stand behind the downtrodden and give them a loving hug and encouragement, but it is much harder (nearly impossible) for me to care for those different from me.  It seems that the more different a worldview a person has from me, the more difficult it is for me to care about their troubles.  

I need to change.

I don't know how to do this, but I will start in small steps.  Maybe the first step is to just look at the person different than me and just recognize them as a fellow traveller and rather than mock their opinions I should learn why these ideas are important to them.  

This really isn't going to be easy.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Gardening

I am not a gardener.  I thought I could be, but I can't.  I wanted to love gardening because that is what adults are supposed to do--be adultish.  I searched for meditation found in spending a few hours each day transforming our backyard into a small paradise but was bored after a few minutes and lacked the imagination to create my own oasis.

I spent a few days this spring pulling out the weeds and ripping up the broken patio in our yard hoping for inspiration.  I decided to start small with morning glory to cover up the piles of concrete and sunflowers to add some color.  In other words, I planted weeds.  WEEDS!  The worst part is that the morning glory decided to grow in the neighbor's yard and the few that stayed in our yard choked the sunflowers before they even had a chance to grow.  I couldn't grow weeds.  My gardening days are over.

But I have a birdfeeder.

Birds do not require weeding, they find their own sunlight, and they provide a little bit of music to my day.  Each morning starts with the sparrows and finches.  They like to take turns at the feeder and hop around the different branches waiting for a chance at the seeds.   A mourning dove comes by a little later to scoop up the seeds dropped on the ground.  Things quiet down until the afternoon when a blue jay shows his strength and pushes the little guys out of his way.  Just before sunset the blue jay is chased of by a cardinal.  I have a hummingbird feeder but they haven't joined the party yet.  Birds are much easier than flowers.

I might start making my own feeders.  That's adultish.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Regrets

We have an ecclesiastical leader here in NYC that likes to give sermons on regrets.  To be more accurate, he talks about "No Regrets."  No Regrets is his personal motto. No Regrets is his family motto.  He anxiously encourages the congregations with talks and anecdotes that highlight living a life without regrets.

With this life philosophy I most certainly disagree.  No Regrets as a life motto ranks with other horrible contenders like "You Only Live Once" or "Trust Nothing but Your Intuition."  People who shout "NO REGRETS!" are typically a few seconds away from making a horrible mistake.  Keeping a life motto of avoiding mistakes seems like a good way to avoid the truth of who we are.  We make mistakes.  We try again.  Sometimes we improve.  Sometimes we do not.  It is especially difficult to make any life improvements if we have an attitude of no regrets.

I have many regrets.  I regret words I speak in anger.  I regret a missed opportunity to help.  I regret the first week of 9th grade when in an attempt to avoid bullies I bullied another kid who most likely would have been a lifelong friend.  I regret not taking more time to visit friends and family.  I regret my complacency.  I regret finding fault in other people just trying to make their way in life (even stupid ecclesiastical leaders).

There is a chance I am wrong and the No Regrets life is the best way to live, but I like my regrets.  They remind me that tomorrow is another day to make better choices.  My regrets may embarrass me, but they also motivate me to "Keep A-Goin'."  That's our motto, what's yours?

***this is not a picture of my tattoo***
***let's hope I'm not that stupid***

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Walkersville

Walkersville, MD is a few hours from New York City about 30 minutes south of Gettysburg and happens to be one of my favorite places to visit.  Also, I like describing distance in units of time... it sounds fancy.  My wife's parents live in Walkersville, so we visit as often as we can.  The town has open spaces, quiet neighborhoods, and great proximity to a Wal-Mart and Cafe Rio.  I know that most of my family and friends have all of that in Utah, but we live in NYC where life can be a little crazy.

Walkersville is where we get away.  It's where we visit family.  It's where our son learns to be a country boy.

On our recent trip there I had a moment of clarity.  These moments are rare, but I never forget them.  It was a Saturday night, and the entire family (around 13 of us) had left the dining room to watch Kim walk around the front yard in a giant cardboard tube (it was hilarious).  As we were in the front yard, neighbors came by, the kids started playing games, and the dog ran between everyone eagerly joining the various groups.  The sun was setting, and I sat in a chair and watched it all happen.  I wanted to get my phone and take some pictures, record some videos, and get everyone to pose for a group shot, but I didn't.  I was happy to keep this memory locked up.  I was afraid that if I recorded it, I would forget it.  I don't want to forget the feeling of security and love I felt in that yard.  I don't want to forget the happiness found in family.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

My Favorite Prophet

Elijah is my favorite prophet.  He wins for all books of scripture and even the modern era.  I know we aren't supposed to have a favorite prophet.  I was reminded of this a few weeks ago in a church meeting when I answered the teacher's inquiry about favorites.  I ignored the snarky reply because it was stupid.  I have a lot of favorites: favorite poet, favorite food, favorite chair, favorite book... I can't have a favorite prophet?

Anyway, this is not a rant about uptight Mormons, this is about Elijah.  I really like the guy.  He took on the priests of Baal, raised the dead, and rode a chariot of fire to heaven.  The dude was a rockstar.  Of all the scriptures about his life, the following has been rolling through my head a lot the last few weeks:
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lordbut the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 
 The story continues in 1 Kings chapter 19, but this is the passage I think about.  Elijah was waiting for the Lord.  He was not deceived by the wind, earthquake, or fire.

There have been a lot of proverbial earthquakes, winds, and fires lately.  It seems that we can't take a breath without some commentator extolling the virtue or condemning the vice of (insert your own trending news story here).  We are inundated with what courage is supposed to look like, how families are supposed to behave, what symbols are good, what laws are just, what freedoms are in danger, the books we ought to read, the sins we ought to shun, how gender is supposed to function, why the poor deserved to be shamed, and the science that must be ignored.

I stopped listening to the voices clamoring for the spotlight and listened to the voice that matters most.  I didn't need the shouting heads to teach me that all life is worthy of love, that compassion and mercy should always trump the demands of justice, and that my neighbors are my family.

It turns out that being a friend is fun.  Also, sometimes I get treats.