Wednesday, November 28, 2007


For years, one of my pet peeves has been the steady decline in what my mom calls "a good hand". In her generation, penmanship was as important as stoking the wood furnace in the middle of the schoolroom. And it showed. Just check the handwriting of the average person over the age of 70. You will see a glorious, intelligible, graceful style that flows like a stream downhill. (Sudden thought: If our Founding Fathers had penned the constitution with the typical handwriting of today, would anarchy reign because we couldn't read what they wrote?)

The handwriting of the average middle-schooler today is, well, atrocious. And don't give the argument that this is a direct result of the move from notebook paper to a keyboard. This skill has seen a steady decline that borders on neglect. In the '60's, primary students were getting an average of 45 minutes a day working on handwriting. Today, the average is 10 minutes and only 12% of their teachers have ever taken a course in how to teach it.

And now we know that insisting on good penmanship is more than just a personal preference. There is growing evidence that handwriting fluency is an important building block of learning. Studies are showing that when kids struggle with handwriting, it filters into all their academics. Spelling becomes a problem; math becomes a problem because they reverse their numbers. I'm so encouraged that the folks who produce the SAT have added a written essay question. The thought is that with something like a writing test on the SAT, there will be a trickle-down effect to middle schools and eventually the third-grade classroom.

A great quote from the Newsweek article from which I gleaned the above info: "If we stop teaching penmanship, it will not only hasten the day when brides acknowledge wedding gifts by email; the bigger danger, they'll be composed even more poorly than they already are."

Monday, November 26, 2007


As per my doctor's orders, I slept in my recliner 5 days, ending last Tuesday. It was about then that I noticed a couple of pimply-looking red spots on the top of my forehead. Didn't think much of it, even when a red splotch began to encircle the two spots. I thought it was just one of those strange things that appears then goes away a few days later.

I think you know where this is going. By Thanksgiving Day, the area was quarter-size and getting very angry-looking. By then I was convinced this had to be related to a spider bite of some kind. About two weeks ago, I killed a large brown spider a few feet from the recliner that looked like pictures I'd seen of brown recluse spiders.

The red area has slowly grown and now has tiny blisters appearing. This is getting a bit alarming! I've got an appointment with a family practice doctor this afternoon at 4:20. This guy is a real outdoorsman and I'm hopeful he's got good experience with this sort of thing. I would think that the source was a brown recluse were it not for the fact that I've had no symptoms other than the red area smarting and stinging. This is getting curiouser and curiouser. I'll report in on what the doc says...unless he puts me in the hospital...I hope that's a joke.

LATER: Back from the doctor and the news is good, kinda. I've got shingles. The symptoms really are similar to the recluse spider bite...but the fact that I had two lesions pretty much ruled out the spider since they nearly always bite once and then move on to another meal. He said people who've just had surgery are susceptible because their immune system is down a bit. So I'm on a strong antibiotic and steroids. The sad thing is that I'm contagious. If I spread the virus to a child, then the poor kid will get chicken pox...and I've been holding Macie (9 months) all day.

So I guess this is what I get for using the internet as my doctor.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


The contrasts between Thanksgiving Day and two days later are amazing. The same food which made us squeal in delight now sits there brooding in the refrigerator, as unattractive as a blind date. The din created by 27 guests has been replaced by a deafening quiet that makes Carole and me long for our grandchildren to bring their mayhem back to our den floor.

Thanksgiving is perhaps the best holiday of all. None of the artificial, materialistic frenzy seen during the Christmas gift-giving madness. The focus really is on giving thanks, even for those who don't know our Savior. The ritual of gathering at noon with family, eating at one o'clock, visiting until the Cowboy game, and then segregating the sexes during's a pattern that seems worthy of repeating every year.

It's almost a given that there is a new addition to our gathering every Thanksgiving. This year, the fresh face belonged to our angelic fourth grandchild, Macie. Next year the newbie will be Audrey, our fifth g'child, due around three weeks from now. We are beside ourselves in anticipation. Poor Brooke just wants her to hurry up and get here.

The shoulder hurts all the time, but I know it's normal and that it will continue to hurt as I do more with it every day. Can't start rehab until Dec. 3rd and that's a bit frustrating. Seemed everyone who greeted me on Thanksgiving slapped me right on the socket as a greeting, sending me into a coyote-howling mode.

Now, the focus is on getting all our family and friends back home safely. And then we'll get into the official Audrey countdown.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Post-Op Report

Hey, checking in. All going well. Got the bandages off and staples out. Most interesting note from the discussion with the doc was this: Dr. Aldrich said that when I was under anesthesia, he tried to raise my right arm above shoulder level and couldn't. So glad I was under when he tried that.

He decompressed the shoulder, whatever that means, and opened up the capsule, whatever that means. I'm to work on small range-of-motion movement from now through the weekend. Then next week I start rehab...three times a week for three weeks.

My dream to pitch in the major leagues in my '60's is alive!!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Pilgrims were males...

I'm sittin' here in awe of my wife.

Of course, I'm still helpless, unable to do much of anything due to the surgery on my right shoulder. Meanwhile, Carole has both grand-daughters to manage...all the while getting the house ready for Thanksgiving. We're having nearly 30 family members here and naturally, we want the place to look good. Today, Carole has made two trips in the car to run various errands and continued the household chores as well. Her stress won't end until a week from now.

Meanwhile I sit, watch, and admire.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Day Two

First off, I hope you can click on the above photo and enlarge it. It is now my new wallpaper.

Post-op day 2 has been okay. I didn't sleep well last night. My right arm was totally numb and added to the inconvenience of sleeping in the recliner. I'm into a brief (I hope) time of nice pain because the IV drip into my shoulder has been completely depleted.

But this is not complaining. A brief time of personal inconvenience does wonders to tune me in to the millions of folks who face much, much worse incapacitation on a daily basis...and with no end in sight this side of eternity. What enormous blessings good health and working parts are! We should awaken every morning thanking God for what we have. And open our eyes to those who silently suffer every day and do what we can for them.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

No pain, much gain

I'm back from the shoulder decompression and feelin' fine. This is less due to my strength of character than to the implant of a pain-killing drip. I'm also hooked up to a tube that circulates ice water around the area. And I'm typing left-handed, which looks like a caffeinated rooster having a sneezing fit in front of a keyboard.

Pre-op was routine. I told the anesthesiologist that if I started seeing a tunnel with a bright light, then I'd know he screwed up. He did not smile. I then recall a period of grogginess that lasted 6 or 7 seconds, then poof...woke up in the recovery room to a nurse saying, "Hey there, big guy!" I immediately was astounded by being pain-free. I've awakened in many a recovery room to sheer agony so this was very cool.

I asked the nurse if the color of my new prosthetic arm looked okay and she failed to see the humor either. Eventually, Carole and I got to leave. She took me to a Sonic since I was beyond famished. Upon leaving there, we had our first post-op crisis. I dropped my straw down between my seat and the door. So she stopped the car, got out, came over to my side, bent over, and started fishing for the elusive straw. It was way down there below the track and she got into immediate trouble. Her wedding ring got stuck between two metal parts of the track. It took her two painful minutes to extricate the ring and the one-cent straw. I just had to sit there and watch with the forlorn feeling that care-recipients have when they're helpless to help those helping them.

Anyway, all is well. Thanks for the prayers. But I may be calling you when the pain-drip runs out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Scope of the Thing

Finally going to get the shoulder scoped on Thursday. Day surgery. Seems simple enough, but I have this ominous feeling that it's gonna be a bit more painful come Thursday night than I'd originally thought. But it's gotta be done if I'm ever going to resurrect my pitching career.

I'll check in with gripping updates. The part of having surgery I hate most is the fasting prior to going in. By far. You think they'd notice Reese's Peanut Butter Cups on my breath?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

"Intermediate" Heaven

In my prior blog, I mentioned Randy Alcorn's idea that when we die, we will go to an "intermediate" heaven. Here is what he says, mostly in his words:

When a Christian dies, he or she enters the intermediate state, a transitional period between our past lives on Earth and our future resurrection to life on the New Earth. By definition, an intermediate state is temporary. It is not our final destination. Though it will be a wonderful place, the intermediate heaven is not the place we are made for. God's children are destined for life as resurrected beings on a resurrected Earth. In the intermediate heaven, we'll await the time of Christ's return to the earth, our bodily resurrection, the final judgment, and the creation of the new heavens and new earth.

The future heaven will be in the human realm...on Earth. The dwelling place of God will be the dwelling place of humanity, in a resurrected universe. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth...I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God...And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." (Rev. 21: 1-3). God will relocate his people and come down from heaven to the new earth to live with them. Rather than our going up to live in God's home forever, God will come down to live in our home forever.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Straight on your heaven theories?

I kinda thought I had nailed down this heaven the point that I taught classes on it at church. The crux of my teaching was that even though we don't know a lot about heaven, just trust God and he will make even floating on a cloud seem like cloud 9.

But I've been reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn and I'm coming over to his ideas. This book is a real tome, a scholarly but readable volume that is the result of 25 years of study on the matter by Alcorn. What he has shown is while the Bible is not expansive on the topic, it is much more illuminating that we've suspected. And it's not just Revelation, either. The O.T. is illustrative and so are various N.T. books.

Here in a nutshell is what Alcorn says. There is an intermediate heaven to which we go when we die. It is not our final destination. Our final destination, coming after the judgment, is a new earth. This new earth is actually our present earth except with evil and the consequences of evil forever removed. We will have physical bodies which will have sight and hearing just as now. The pattern here is Christ's resurrection body, the one that was just like his former physical body in many respects and totally unlike it in other respects. There will be trees, mountains, and music. There will be work and relationships, all in total perfection.

Alcorn doesn't spend but a paragraph or so on 1000-year reigns or the lack thereof. He feels it is inconsequential to the discussion.

I'd like to expound on this in subsequent blogs...I just don't know whether I can adequately handle the matter in such a limited space and still do it justice. If you're brave, get the book and settle in for a study that may take months. I'm not even halfway through and I've spent dozens of hours reading and pondering its theses.

One thing is for sure. I'm hyped up about the prospects!

Friday, November 02, 2007