Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Shocking Confession

I have an embarrassing confession to make. I watched golf. And I liked it.

For years, watching golf has been my Check Mate in "Would You Rather" games.

"Would you rather get a paper cut on your eyeball or watch golf?" I'll take the paper cut.

"Would you rather have a kangaroo kick you in the groin or watch golf?" Surely a kangaroo couldn't hurt THAT bad.

"Would you rather lick the floor of a gas station or watch golf?" Let's see. Where is the closest Chevron?

So I was shocked when I actually took a few minutes to see why in the world golf would be shown on a national network on a Sunday afternoon. And, as crazy as it sounds, I actually found it kind of, well, interesting.

Trust me. I know how ridiculous this sounds. I previously thought that watching ugly paint dry would be more interesting than golf. But watching golf is kind of like eating yams for the first time. As a kid, you see the dish of yams and think it resembles road kill with marshmallows on top. You want nothing to do with it. But then one day you muster the strength to give them a try. And they're actually pretty good!

Don't get me wrong. It's not like I'm going to record golf to make sure I don't miss one put. I'm not going to choose golf over an NBA game. I'm never going to actually play golf. But when someone asks "Would you rather listen to Michael Bolton or watch golf?", I'm not going to choose Michael Bolton anymore.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cancer Research at Huntsman Cancer Institute

A week ago I had the privilege of spending the afternoon at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah.

My brother-in-law Kelly just completed his Ph.D and has been working at Huntsman for years doing cancer research. Not only is Kelly a genius, but he is also the nicest person you could ever hope to meet. I admire him and his family so much.

I was fascinated to see his lab area and the various chemicals he works with every day.

Kelly and some of his colleagues told me about a few of the projects they were working on. I knew that they were drastically simplifying their descriptions, but even with the simple versions, I struggled to understand a fraction of what they were talking about. The complexity of their work astounded me.

Just like a scene straight out of Jurassic Park, he showed me the cryogenic freezer where they store some of the cancer cells they work with. As he opened the freezer and pulled out the canister of cells, thick fog poured out.

One of Kelly's co-workers specializes in working with lasers. He showed me some of the projects he is working on which blew my mind. He works in a dark room with lasers glowing all over his desk. He was able to put a laser on my hand and immediately identify how much Lycopene was in my system.

I was fascinated when Kelly showed me one of the protein molecules and DNA he is working on. At one point I took a picture of the computer screen showing thousands of the connections of DNA strands in the protein.

It was completely unexpected, but at that moment I felt the Spirit so strong. I was looking at one of the most complicated, intricate details of a cell. Researchers spend years trying to figure out the simplest parts of the human body, but still we know so little. Every part of the cell, every little connection of the DNA was so involved and so perfect. I had such a strong feeling that only God could have orchestrated the many systems of our bodies.

The cancer research lab is enormous. In this image, we are standing in the middle of the lab looking down one hallway of stations for researchers. Each lab filled with chemicals and beakers and vials. And if you could look behind this image, you'd see a hallway stretching the opposite direction just as long. And this was only ONE of the many floors in the building doing research.

The biggest thing I took from my visit was hope. The building was full of absolutely brilliant people doing research far beyond what most people can imagine. And this kind of research is happening in labs all over the country. It gave me comfort to know that as daunting as these afflictions can be, there are countless people working behind the scenes to keep us healthy.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lessons On Forgiveness

Something profound happened last week that exemplified what forgiveness means. And it happened, of all places, on a baseball field.

There were two outs in the ninth inning, and Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was ONE out away from pitching a perfect game (no hits, no walks, no runs). For all you non-baseball lovers (including my wife), this is HUGE. In the history of baseball, only 21 PITCHERS have ever had a perfect game. The rarity of a perfect game makes it baseball's crowning achievement.

Galarraga makes the pitch. The ball gets hit to the infield. It gets thrown to first base. The batter was clearly out. Galarraga had pitched a perfect game!

But then everything changed. Umpire Jim Joyce raised his arms and called the batter SAFE! And the perfect game went down the drain.

This is where the story gets interesting. This is where we start to learn lessons about courage and forgiveness. Some incredible things happened:

1) Galarraga didn't lose his temper. He didn't yell at the umpire. He didn't explode (which would have been more than justified and understandable.)

2) Joyce watched the replay after the game and realized the mistake he had made. But you know what? He didn't make excuses for what had happened. He felt terrible and owned up to the fact that he blew the game. He took total accountability. He went to the Tiger's locker room and apologized to Galarraga and gave him a hug.

3) And guess what? Galarraga forgave him. He forgave him! Galarraga said "He really feels bad. He probably feels more bad than me. Nobody is perfect. I give a lot of credit to that guy. [An apology] doesn't happen. He apologized. He feels really bad. Nobody is perfect. What am I gonna do? His eyes were watering and he didn't have to say much. His body language said a lot."

The lessons here are critical for all of my relationships. All of your relationships. We need to stop focusing on always being right. We need to own up when we make a mistake. We need to be humble and willing to apologize. Because when we do, relationships stay strong. It becomes easier to overlook weaknesses and mistakes. And we need to forgive others when we have been wronged.

Imagine how differently this story would have ended if Jim Joyce had stuck to his guns, not admitting he made a mistake, and not apologizing. I believe Galarraga would have been MUCH less likely to forgive. He would have remained full of anger and vengeance.

But instead, they were able to give each other a hug. I admire Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga. I hope I can be more like both of them.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Utah Valley Marathon Review

26.2 miles. I. Ran. 26.2. Miles. It is inconceivable (I watched The Princess Bride yesterday after the race.) I truly believe this is a miracle. With my terrible, achy knees, I feel so blessed that my body was able to carry me this far.

I was looking forward to the Utah Valley Marathon as my second marathon. We had a great day before the race. We started with a carbo-loading breakfast at Einstein Bros. Bagels. Mercy. I have never eaten a better bagel.

Then we headed to Provo to drive the course of the marathon. It's helpful to know what you're getting into. I spotted a 7-11 along the route and immediately slammed on my breaks to stop and grab a Slurpee. Coming across this sweet, holy, pina colada nectar was surely a good omen.

The marathon started far up the Provo Canyon and we were able to run past the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls:

The girls loved seeing such a pretty waterfall.

There were a few parts of the course that were simply amazing. My favorite part was this bright red barn nestled against the mountains:

We finally reached the starting line of the marathon – which would be a completely different scene a few hours later:

Overall, the course seemed nearly perfect. There were a few semi-intimidating hills, but nothing I hadn’t done before so I was feeling optimistic. Then again, when you have a pina colada Slurpee in your hand, it’s impossible to feel anything except happy. I saw one more thing worth stopping for as we finished driving the course – this cool old truck:

There WAS something I was feeling nervous about: RAIN. It had been raining all day. And the forecast for race day: RAIN. The dark clouds and downpour were daunting.

The day of the race, June 12th 2010 was a special day for another reason: it was me and Mel’s 12th anniversary. I thought it might be fun to surprise her with a little sign on my shirt (which led to many spectators yelling “Go Mel!”). I could understand how having your name on your shirt could give you an emotional boost.

My alarm went off at 2:20am. Yes, 2:20am!!! (Not that it mattered, I couldn’t sleep anyway). I loaded the bus at 4:00am and somehow managed to get on the same bus with the only other person I knew doing the race: my friend Renee. She is CRAZY and INSANE spontaneous and signed up for the marathon the day before. I really loved having someone to talk to in the time leading up to the 5:30am start.

I brought a poncho. But before the race started, it stopped raining. It seemed like it might be clearing up. So I put the poncho in the gear collection truck. I’m not exaggerating – two minutes later it started raining again. By then my bag was buried amid hundreds of other bags in a U-Haul. Ugh.

A gun went off and the race started. My body was feeling good, except for my knees which were a little tight from the cold. Not bad though. It kept raining. And raining. It was mile 7 when the water started soaking through my shoes. I felt some hot spots on my feet but amazingly managed to finish the race without a blister or black toe nail!

Finally at mile 13 it stopped raining. I took off my long sleeved shirt which I later regretted. It was completely soaked, but at least it was protecting me from the wind. Around mile 14 we reached one of the bigger hills on the course – and my wheels fell off. I didn’t feel like I had hit a wall, it just felt like I was starting to run out of gas.

“Marathoning is like cutting yourself unexpectedly. You dip into the pain so gradually that the damage is done before you are aware of it. Unfortunately, when awareness comes, it is excruciating.” ~ John Farrington, Australian marathoner

I was really cold the last half of the race. At one aid station I grabbed half a banana. My fingers were numb so I had a hard time getting the peel off. My brain was maybe a little loopy too because I looked down and realized that I was eating part of the peel.

At some point I realized I was not going to make my goal time. That’s a weird feeling. A part of me felt a little discouraged. And a part of me didn’t care. I just wanted to get to the finish line. I thought of possible excuses (I only got an hour and a half of sleep … it was raining … they didn’t have Slurpees at any aid stations) but to be honest, none of those are valid excuses. The course and the temperature were actually perfect. I would MUCH rather be too cold than too hot. I felt like my skin was melting off during the St. George Marathon but didn’t feel like that at all during Utah Valley. I just happened to be a little slower than I'd hoped.

The last six miles were really hard. My legs were in knots and tight as violin strings and I was completely out of gas. I was in good company though. Everyone else around me was doing the marathon death shuffle too. Watching everyone trudging along made me laugh out loud (mainly to keep myself from crying).

Along those last six miles, there were two guys that I passed and was passed by at least 4,729 times. We just kept going back and forth. We were trying to push each other to the finish line. At one point, I had a heart to heart talk with one of them. We made a promise to each other that if one of us died before making it to the finish line, we would call their wife and kids to tell them that we loved them.

Seeing the mile marker for mile 26 is one of the most INCONCEIVABLE things a human can ever lay eyes on. The pride in knowing your legs have covered twenty six miles is hard to explain. (PS: I hate the British for adding that extra .2 of a mile.) Mel met me at the last half mile and I had fun talking to her as I trudged to the finish line. Having her support meant so much to me.

I crossed the line in 4 hours and 37 minutes. It felt like someone had dropped a television on my legs. But I felt so happy. All those countless hours and miles of training had paid off.

"The pride in finishing a marathon is much greater than all the pain endured during the marathon." ~ Hal Higdon

The finish line had some great food. I enjoyed a Creamie and some Pizza.

I was also happy to find Renee who did awesome at the race.

The marathon was extraordinary. I wouldn’t change one thing about it. It was an experience I will never forget.

(And to top it off, I finished the weekend with a few more Slurpees.)

I run because it's so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can't. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you're capable of so much more than you thought.
Arthur Blank, American businessman and a co-founder of Home Depot

Friday, June 11, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

Tomorrow is me & Mel's 12th anniversary. We started dating when we were sophomores in high school. She sat next to me in History, which could help explain why my grades weren't stellar in that class. It is CRAZY to think about how much has happened between then and now.

I think that making an excellent choice about who to marry has led to the happiness that I feel in my life right now. As I've been thinking about why our relationship works so well, I've come up with a few ideas:
  • There is a blurred line defining who does what in the house. Sometimes I do the dishes. Sometimes she mows the lawn. Sometimes I mop the floors. Sometimes she cleans the garage. Sometimes I clean bathrooms. Our marriage seems to work well because if something needs to be done, we do it. We help each other out and work as a team.
  • Related to item #1, we don't keep score of who has done what. (Most of the time. This didn't always apply when we had children who were waking up at ALL hours of the night, or during diaper stages.)
  • We have fun together and make each other laugh.
  • We know when to pick our battles. Most of the time, over petty issues, it's not worth having a battle. I think we've learned to comprimise and be willing to give a little.
  • We agree on money matters. We are both cheap frugal.
I still feel like there is not one other person who could be a better fit than Mel. Since I love her so much, it's easy to overlook all the times that I'm right and she's wrong disagreements. I still love her even though she won't watch an NBA basketball game with me. Everyone has a little room for improvement. Happy Anniversary Mel!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Taking Water For Granted

Reading my friend Liz's blog about water reminded me of an amazing issue of National Geographic I read recently (the April 2010 issue). Please - click on the magazine cover for a link to some incredible pictures and even more incredible stories (or better yet, go to the library and read the hard copy).

I realized just how much we take water for granted in our country. There were some interesting stats:
  • 2.5% of Earth's water is fresh. About 2/3 of that is frozen. That leaves less than 1% to grow crops and supply drinking water.
  • Americans use about 100 gallons of water each day. Millions of the world's poorest subsist on less than 5 gallons.
  • Women in developing countries walk an average of 3.7 MILES to get water.
  • There is a picture of women in Kenya who spend 5 HOURS each day carrying heavy jugs to get their water.
  • In Florida, 3,000 gallons are used to water the grass for each golf game played.
I'm being more careful about the water I use. After seeing how fortunate we are to have the luxury of clean running water, it has made me feel grateful each time I fill up a glass of water.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hospital Heroics

While in San Diego, we had some down time at the condo. It isn't unusual for down time to result in tickle wars around our house. Such a thing happened in San Diego too.

I was laying on the couch being a sleeping giant with the girls trying to tag me then run away. Our 5 year old Kylee tagged the giant but got caught. I was holding her arm preparing to tickle, when her heroic sister came to the rescue. She grabbed Kylee's other hand and tried to pull her away from the giant.

When suddenly a scream erupted.

Kylee was crying on the floor and it took about ten minutes before the crying subsided enough for her to ask what it feels like when you break your arm. I got a sick feeling in my stomach. I quickly realized that our plans for the evening had been made.

She laid on the couch for a while so we could see if it would get feeling better. Any time she moved it, she would start crying. So......we looked up the address of the closest children's hospital and off we went.

We arrived to a packed emergency room. Not good. We found some comfortable chairs which was fortunate since we'd be sitting there for a few HOURS. The waiting room was really bad for two reasons:

1) The large amounts of coughing and barf. The surrounding sickness made us uncomfortable. We wanted to take a chemical bath, then put on Hazmat suits.

2) It was sad to see so many children sick or injured. Part of the reason we were there for HOURS is because many serious traumas came in requiring immediate attention. It made me feel thankful for my blessings, for our family's health, and the fact that our visit wasn't a life and death situation.

After a few hours we finally got a chance to talk to a nurse practitioner. She smiled and immediately knew what had happened. Apparently when kids are little, their elbow sockets aren't fully formed, so if you pull on the wrist, the elbow bones lengthen out and a ligament pops between the bones. Fortunately it was an easy fix, and everything was put back where it needed to be in about two seconds.

Kylee was so happy that she was able to use her arm again. But she was even more happy to get some stickers and a popsicle. The funniest part was that a McDonalds was connected to the ER. Seriously - they shared the same door. I thought it was interesting that people could clog their arteries AND be treated for clogged arteries in the same place.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Return Of The Nose Picker!!!!!

I must tell you the unbelievable thing that happened to me today.

Remember how I told you last week about the guy picking his nose at Walmart?

Well....guess what? I saw him again today! I was driving past Barnes and Noble and I saw him walking out of the store.

And I swear to you, with my hand on the Bible, pinkie swear, cross my heart and hope to die......


My jaw dropped. I watched in stunned disbelief. It was incredible.

Work wasn't fun today. It was stressful and full of problems. I was forced to calm my nerves with a Diet Mountain Dew and a huge peanut butter cookie from Maverik. But you know what? Whenever the stress started to burden me, I thought about the phantom nose picker, and it immediately brought a smile to my face.

San Diego 2010

Our family just returned from a fantastic trip to San Diego. When I use the word "fantastic", that is excluding the un-fantastic experience of driving TO San Diego and HOME from San Diego. Our three children enjoyed 8 hours in the car as much as they would having a racquetball shoved up their nose. If I had a nickle for every time we heard "He's touching me!" or "She's annoying me!", I could have hired a private jet to fly us to San Diego.

Our first stop was Sea World. A trip to San Diego wouldn't be complete without seeing an enormous black and white jumping fish:

Or an enormous tank full of eels as thick as my thigh:

During the trip I consumed ridiculous quantities of Hostess donuts. And candy. And red meat. And Diet Mountain Dew. And the highlight......7-Eleven Slurpees. I didn't pass one 7-Eleven without going inside for a Slurpee. Sometimes we went searching for a 7-Eleven. The Slurpee is a heavenly nectar which has not arrived in southern Utah yet.

The condo we stayed at had these amazing flowers that I hadn't ever seen before:

We went to the Sea Life Aquarium which was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I loved seeing all the sharks and rays and jelly fish. Here is a video of a few jelly fish we saw:

We had a blast at Lego Land. I sat next to Danica on a roller coaster. Immediately she got a look of intense panic and started yelling "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" This was the only word she could get out, but what she was trying to say was "Get me off this ride! I don't like having my stomach in my throat! I may never talk to you again! This experience will be the source of therapy sessions when I am an adult!"

We spent some time at the beach which was cold and windy. The cold didn't deter Jackson one bit, who proved, yet again, that he is a fish. I haven't seen his gills yet, but I'm sure they are there.

We were happy to have Mel's mom Marie come with us on the vacation. She was my ally in the frequent Slurpee stops. As much fun as we had, it will be a while before we go on another vacation that requires eight hours in a car.

For a few more pictures visit http://fastcory.blogspot.com AND stay tuned for our San Diego hospital experience.....