Friday, September 21, 2007

Udate on CPAP Therapy

In my previous post, I described my experience while undergoing a sleep study.

I now use my CPAP machine religiously. It has really been a benefit to me -- a blessing even.

Here is the CPAP machine that I use. And here is the mask that I use.

The sleep study took place on April 10th of this year. I started on the CPAP machine on May 1st. After a few weeks of CPAP therapy, I noticed that I was sleeping through the night. Not waking up several times each night.

The quality of sleep I get now is much better. I have more energy, I am less sleepy during the daytime. I don't feel so tired and run-down all the time.

I also can concentrate better. I work as a computer programmer, and I would often find it difficult to concentrate, and wrap my mind around difficult tasks. Now I can grasp complicated concepts much better. I actually feel like doing things more proactively, instead of waiting things to come to me alone.

I was really worried about the noise of a CPAP machine -- and if my wife would kick me out of our bedroom to the basement. However the machine I use is quite quiet. I would highly recommend it. This is the machine that I use. And this is the Mask that I use.

I had hoped that the CPAP therapy would help with my edema (swelling in the feet, ankles and shins), but it hasn't made much difference in that area. I continue to take those evil water pills (lasix). However there are times (such as during travel) that I can't just hang out near a restroom for a few hours at a time. So on those days, I don't take the lasix. (Don't get any ideas, Larry Craig, if you're reading this! And no tappy-toes Senator jokes here, please!)

Anyhow, I feel that the CPAP therapy has been a great help in my life. I feel better now than I have for several years.

If you think you might have sleep apnea. See your doctor. It will help you feel better, and the Therapy might even save your life one-day!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A $2000 A Night Hotel -- And Not Even Cable TV!

For the past 2-3 years I have been experiencing a lot of fatigue and tiredness. There have been days when I could hardly hold my eyes open at work.

I have noticed that It has been hard for me to concentrate and stay engaged in difficult, mentally challenging tasks.

Also I have developed over the past few years edema (swelling of the feet and calves). My Dr. has prescribed water pills until my kidneys have begged for mercy, but with only marginal results. In the quest to find the cause of the edema, tests were performed to make sure that I didn’t have leaky heart valves – which can result in edema. The test results showed that my heart was doing just fine, so that was not the cause.

My Dr. finally referred me to a pulmonologist to be evaluated for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can also result in edema, as well as be a reason for the fatigue and tiredness that I have been experiencing over the last few years.

The pulmonologist did an initial oximetery test, where you wear an “alligator” clip on your finger, which is attached to a recording device that measures your heart rate, and blood oxygen percentage overnight as you sleep.

From this test, I learned that my breathing was stopping at a rate of about 40 times per hour. I also learned that my blood oxygen percentage went down to 72 (90 and above is considered normal).

The pulmonologist diagnosed me with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). The therapy for this condition is to begin using a CPAP machine (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). However, I learned that in order for insurance to help cover the cost of the machine, that you had to first undergo an overnight sleep study. I crunched the numbers, and I figured that I would be dollars ahead to follow the insurance protocols, rather than skipping the sleep study, and just buying a CPAP machine outright on my own.

So I checked myself into a “Sleep Disorders Center” at a nearby hospital. I actually felt like I was checking myself into a jail or a halfway house. – Like I was doing time on evenings and weekends. Perhaps it was the confinement and the lack of freedom, for the night that made it feel jail-like. (Actually, I’ve never spent any time locked up in a jail cell, so I wouldn’t know what that might really feel like.) All I know is that I felt like a jail bird. I even wore my stripped convict pajamas.

Like jail, first thing I had to do was strip down and put on my convict pajamas. Next they had me try out a couple of CPAP masks, to see if I found one preferable to another. I picked out my “favorite” mask, and then was told that I could watch TV or read for awhile.

I turned on the TV, and much to my dismay, it was regular broadcast TV only. Here I am staying at this place for the night – with a list price in excess of $2,000. You would think that they would at least have Cable TV for that price!

I don’t watch anything on network TV. I am a denizen of the Discovery Channel, TLC, HGTV, The Travel Channel, Food Network, with a little Animal Planet mixed in. I might watch something on the History Channel, or A&E. But I haven’t watched anything of interest from the broadcast networks since Frazier went off the air.

Next they came in to wire me up. There were 21 wires in all, attached to my body. I had probes attached near each eye, and probes attached under each side of my jawbone. There was another probe attached on my forehead, right above the bridge of my nose. I had a wire attached to each earlobe. There were probes attached on my chest on either side of my heart. There was a probe attached to each of my legs just below the knees. Then there were several probes attached to my skull. Fortunately, they didn’t have to shave little holes out of my hair to make these attachments. (Although they could have used my bald spot on the crown of my head if they wanted to!) Instead they put this goop into my hair, and then braided wires into the goo. After the goo set-up, it was just about the consistency of silly putty.

Next they put two belts around me. One of them was around my chest, and the other was around my diaphragm. These two belts were also wired, and were there to sense the depth and frequency of my respirations.

At this point I felt like I was about to be strapped into an Electric chair.

To top it all off, I had an oxygen sensor attached to one of my fingers – similar to that of the oximetery test I had received before.

After being hooked up to all the wires, and then being tethered to the bed, I was also told that I MUST sleep for a minimum of 2 hours, and that my breathing MUST stop at least 30 times per hour, or insurance wouldn’t cover a CPAP machine.

If I “achieved” those goals, then they would put me on the CPAP machine for the 2nd half of the night. If I didn’t make the cut, they would just let me sleep on until morning.

No pressure at all! Can anyone else see the irony here? I am at this place because I have a probable sleep disorder in the first place! Then I am told that I must sleep, on-demand, in this strange place, with all these wires attached to me, while trying to find a comfortable position without pulling all the wires out. Got that!

I did a little reading, called home, and prepared to go to sleep. I discovered why they don’t have Cable TV there. The real reason is that they really don’t want to have anything interesting on TV -- which might keep you up at night. After all, they want you to sleep, not watch TV. The TV fare made that an easy choice for me!

I paged the attendant, and had them help me get the covers straight on the bed without pulling out all the wires, and then the turned off the lights.

I said my evening prayers, and eventually drifted off to sleep. I woke up after a while with a sore shoulder. I had been sleeping in an awkward position because of all the wires and probes, and now my shoulder hurt. They gave me some Tylenol and I slowly drifted off to sleep again.

Next thing I new, at about 1:30 am, a technician came into the room and told me that she was going to put on the CPAP mask. Whew! I passed the test! I must have slept the requisite amount (I figure I had been asleep for about 2-2½ hours) and that my breathing must have stopped in excess of 30 times per hour. I don’t think I ever really got into a deep sleep though.

They put the mask on, and made sure it was fitted properly, then I laid back down on the bed – on my back! I just laid there for about 20-30 minutes, and I actually drifted off to sleep!

I NEVER sleep on my back. My airway usually does close off when my muscles relax just before falling asleep. With the CPAP, the airway was kept open. The mattress was also comfortable enough for me to sleep on my back as well – it was a nice pillow-top mattress.

The CPAP machine did make some noise. It sounded like a small hand-held hairdryer on a low setting, with a bit of a whooshing sound because of the air movement. It was an easy kind of a “white” noise that I got used to it fairly quickly. Of course that’s easy for me to say. My ears were partially plugged from the earlobe probes, and I am already half-deaf in one ear to begin with. I guess my dear sweet wife will be the ultimate judge of whether or not the CPAP machine is noisy or not. Who knows, if the machine is too noisy, I might be sleeping in the basement from now on!

After a while, I rolled over onto my side, which is my normal sleeping position. I was able to get to sleep on my side for awhile too. However, with the wires and probes, I was not able to get into a really good sleeping position. Twice during the night, the staff had to come into the room and re-attach probes that had come off during my limited movements. I hope I will be able to find a comfortable sleeping position with the CPAP machine at home. I will often switch from sleeping on my left side, to my right side. I don’t know how well its going to work to have the air hose crossing over the top of my body when I am attempting to sleep. I guess we’ll see how that works out.

I woke up just before 5:00 am, and was done for the night. At about 5:30, the staff came in and started disconnecting me from all my wires and probes.

I changed into my “street” clothes, got the manufacturer and model of the CPAP mask that I used, and got out of there. Not only did this $2000-a-night hotel not have cable TV, but I didn’t get to sleep either! No continental breakfast, no newspaper, no nothing! However, I was glad to get out of there – even if I did have a serious case of “crazy hair” with all the silly putty still stuck in it. The staff reassured me that “hot water and shampoo” would get the putty out. I made my move and broke out of that place, and headed for home!

Going home, I noticed that my gas gage showed empty, and the nearly out of gas warning light was coming on. So I stopped on the way home, crazy hair and all, and filled up the gas tank.

By the time I got home, it was just before 7:00 am. That’s about the time the family starts to stir. I did my morning back stretches. Then we had family scripture study, and got Amy off to school.

Then after everything had settled down, I set out to get the silly putty out of my hair. After two very vigorous shampoos, I was able to get the gunk out of my hair. I don’t know how much hair it took with it (I noticed that my hair was even a little thinner than usual on top) but at least the goop was gone!

I had previously arranged with work to come in late that day, so that I could get some actual sleep after the “Sleepless Study”. I rested for awhile, and finally made it in to work by around noon.

The sleep study staff told me that the full report of the sleep study would be sent to my Dr. in about 2 weeks. In the meantime, sleep specialists will review all the data from the sleep study, and make recommendations. My Dr. will then make his recommendation based on the study, and will undoubtedly prescribe a CPAP machine.

In the meantime, I await the results, and anticipate the adjustments and hopefully the changes for the better that will be coming in the next few weeks and months as a result of CPAP therapy.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

His Promises Are Sure

We went to the temple last night. It was for our ward’s regular monthly sealing assignment at the Jordan River Temple.

It was our first visit to the temple since Dawn Ann’s diagnosis of Breast Cancer. Perhaps our feelings and emotions were a little closer to the surface as a result.

During our sealing session, we were called to the altar first. Dawn Ann and I looked at each other across the altar, as we did for the first time nearly 16 years ago. As the ceremony, which binds a couple together for time, and for all eternity, was pronounced, tears came to Dawn Ann’s eyes. Just a few tears at first, then many more. The sealer handed us a box of Kleenexes so she could wipe her eyes.

As for me, I looked into those eyes, which I have loved for the last 16 years. She always looks so beautiful in white. I am so grateful for her. For the love she has brought to me. The children she has brought into this world. And all she does for us to provide a home for our family.

As I looked at the tears coming from her eyes, I thought I perceived what she might be feeling, and why the tears. Later, I confirmed with her that what I had perceived was correct. As Dawn Ann heard the blessings and promises of eternal marriage pronounced once again, she felt a peace and assurance from the Spirit of the Lord that no matter what happens in this life, the Lord's promises to us are sure. That she and I will be together eternally.

This was what brought tears to her eyes. The witness of the Spirit that despite the challenges we are currently facing, the diagnosis of breast cancer, that she can be assured that all will be well – no matter what happens.

My turn would come a few minutes later, as I was sitting next to the sealer, as one of the witnesses, Brother Leetham gave a few words of counsel between ordinances.

He counseled that the Lord wants each of us to return and enjoy eternal life with him. Brother Leetham counseled that the Lord will leave no stone unturned to make this happen. He paraphrased this scripture:
“ . . . For I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88)
He then counseled that the blessings of eternal life will come through our faithfulness. Then he explained what that means.

Brother Leetham explained that our faithfulness doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect right here, and right now. What it does mean, however, is that we should continually try to become better people little by little. Not in huge spurts, not mile by mile, but inch by inch.

The goal should be to examine ourselves a few months from now, and to be able to see how we have become a little bit better than we were before. The comparison is always with ourselves over time, never comparing ourselves against others.

We should not be comparing ourselves with the bishop, stake president, or the Apostles. Besides, he said, we only see them when they are at their best. They are human too. We just don’t generally see them in their weak moments.

As brother Leetham spoke his words of counsel, I found tears coming to my own eyes this time. As he paraphrased the scripture, I felt that we do not have to face this breast cancer alone. That He will go before us, that He will be on our right side, and on our left, and that His angels will be round about us. He will be there for us. He will not desert us.

The words from the fourth verse of “I am a child of God” best describe my feelings:

I am a child of God.
His promises are sure;
Celestial glory shall be mine
If I can but endure.

All will be well. We have placed our trust in him, and I know we can pass through this trial – no matter what.

-- His Promises are sure.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11th Remembered

In Memory of Those Who Died

There are certain dates in our collective consciousness that are indelible in our minds. It seems like each generation has a transcendent event that marks their generation:
  • For my grandparents, it was October 29, 1929 -- The stock market crash -- followed by the great depression.
  • For my parents it was December 7th, 1941 -- The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • For my generation it was November 22, 1963 – The assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
  • More recently, September 11, 2001 is now seared into our collective minds – The day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people died that day.
Most people who were old enough to remember these events, can remember where they were, and what they were doing when they first heard the news. Isn’t it interesting that each of these events was a calamitous event of one sort or another. Events that seem to have the greatest collective impact upon us.

I remember that I was getting ready for work on that morning – September 11, 2001. As usual I was listening to the radio – Station KSL in Salt Lake City on that day – when I heard an initial report that a small plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers, and that a couple of floors of the building were involved in fire. At first it was not understood that the airplane was really jet airliner.

I didn’t think much of it at first. Probably just an unfortunate case of pilot error. There would, sadly, be some casualties -- but surely nothing that they would not be able to get under control. I saw no reason to panic, or any immediate inkling that this would even become a terribly significant event.

Then the second tower was hit. This time it was plainly seen by all that it was an airliner, and not a small plane. It also became apparent that this was no accident – it was a deliberate attack.

At that point in time, I left the bathroom radio. I turned on the TV in our bedroom and tuned in to CNN. Everyone else was still asleep in the house. I usually don’t turn on the TV because I don’t want to disturb everyone else. However, on this day, I made an exception, as I explained the situation as I best understood it to my wife, who was just waking up.

As the TV came on, I saw an image both twin towers on fire. Then the unthinkable happened, the first tower collapsed. There was panic in the streets as people were fleeing from the scene of dust, debris, and death.

By this time, the rest of the family had gathered around the TV. A few minutes later, the other tower also collapsed.

My son, Bryan was 8 years old at the time. In his innocence, when he saw the building go down, he said: “COOL!” He had thought it was just another garden-variety building implosion that we have all seen on TV countless times before.

Of course, the difference this time, was that thousands of people were dying as those towers collapsed. I gently had to explain to him that this was not a planned demolition, and that people had been hurt when those buildings came down.

Numbly, I went into work that day. I have to admit that I didn’t get much done that day. Mostly I sat in stunned silence, as I listened to the radio coverage on KSL.

I remember listening to Doug Wright on KSL throughout the day. KSL had just begun carrying the newly syndicated Sean Hannity show the day before, on September 10th. I remember hearing Sean’s coverage from a New York City perspective. In addition to Doug Wright and Sean Hannity, KSL also carried audio from CNN and from local New York and Washington, DC TV and radio stations.

I remember the eerie quietness of the skies for the next three days, as all air traffic was ground to a halt.

My mother-in-law was undergoing hip replacement surgery at the University of Utah Medical Center, as the terrorist attacks took place. She went into surgery with our nation at peace, and came out of anesthesia to a nation at war.

Now, six years later, we can see how much our world has changed since the day of those attacks. We have been involved in war ever since. We likely will be for some time to come – regardless of what happens with our involvement in Iraq. If it is not Afghanistan, or Iraq, it will be somewhere else. Regrettably, I’m afraid that it will inevitably return to our own soil one day.

On this sixth anniversary, I wish to remember those who died that day. I also wish to remember the soldiers, sailors, and marines who have died, and been injured defending our freedoms ever since.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Aurigid Meteor Shower

Photo of Aurigid Meteor shower by wisforworlddominatio on Flickr

This morning we got up at 3:00 AM. The occasion was the Aurigid Meteor shower. This photo was taken by member of Flickr. I didn't take any photos myself of this event. Meteor showers are best viewed with the naked eye, with as wide a field of vision as possible. If you are concentrating on looking through a camera viewfinder, or binoculars, you are not likely to see much of the festivities.

About a year ago, I read an article about this meteor shower. It does not often yield good viewing results. However, the placement of the earth's orbit, and the location of dust trail from the comet that left the space debris, matched up just right for what promised to be a spectacular meteor shower.

Last year, I dreamed of getting as far away from city lights as possible to view the meteor shower. I thought Monument Valley, in the extreme Southeast corner of Utah sounded good. There is a nice lodge down there called Gouldings. It would have been nice to stay there and view the meteor shower from there.

However, certain realities have come to bear. Financially, a trip like that just wasn't in the cards. We also had some other obligations that made it difficult to get away this weekend.

Instead, we drove up to the Snow Basin ski resort, just outside of Huntsville, Utah. When I was in the area last week, I noticed that it would be a good place for star gazing. It provided a particularly good view toward the Northeast, and was away from city lights - both requirements to see the Aurigids, as they are called.

We arrived at the viewing area at about 4:45 AM. We broke out the lawn chairs, and our jackets and blankets. I'm not sure what the elevation was, but I would guess that it was somewhere around 6-7000 feet. The temperature was somewhere in the 40's.

Almost immediately, we saw our first meteor. They were pretty constant. We probably saw about one per minute on average. We brought some bagels, yogurt, and juice with us to have an early breakfast as we watched the meteor shower.

The Peak of the meteor shower was supposed to be at 5:37 AM. Within a couple of minutes of the peak, we saw the most spectacular meteor. An exceptionally bright one was streaking across the sky, when it split into three parts. It was like nature's fireworks.

As it got closer to 6:00 AM it was starting to get light. We packed up our things, and continued on into the town of Huntsville, Utah. Just outside of Huntsville, there is a Trappist Monastery. We had never visited there before. We arrived at about 6:45 AM, and learned that there was a daily Mass conducted there at 6:30 AM each day. There were even a few cars in the parking lot, that we assumed belonged to worshipers. They have a gift shop there, and apparently they sell honey there. Bryan wanted some of the creamed, cinnamon honey. We would have too, except the store didn't open until 10:00 AM.

As we headed back to Huntsville, from the Monastery, I drove up to the place where I had parked my truck, just over a week ago, and called Dawn Ann to learn about the results of her biopsy. It was here that I first learned of her breast cancer. Huntsville will never be the same to me again. That spot, in some ways, has become a sacred spot to me. Perhaps that is how it is with places in which we have life-changing experiences. It is a place in which I came to realize how much more I need to depend on the Lord, for the life, health, and future of our family.

We retraced our steps from Huntsville, past Snow Basin Ski Resort and on home again. Both Bryan and Amy conked out in the back seat of the car. We listened to the KSL Outdoors radio show to keep away on the way home.

We arrived home at about 8:45 AM. We all promptly crashed and took naps until about noon. It was worth it though. The meteor shower was really fun. The time together invaluable. I hope the kids will always remember the time we got up at 3:00 IN THE MORNING! to view the meteor shower.

Since Dawn Ann's diagnosis, I have made a determination that I want to have a few fun family outings between now and the time of her surgery. It might be quite some time before Dawn Ann feels like getting out and about once the surgery has taken place.

I also want to make a point of us having a little time together for a day or two sometime before her surgery. Perhaps we'll celebrate our anniversary (October 18th) a little early this year!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

DCIS - In Two Places

This week, my dear wife was diagnosed with DCIS or Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. This is a non-invasive form of breast cancer.

The good news is that this form of cancer is virtually 100% curable.

The bad news is that because the DCIS is in two places on the same breast, and quite a distance apart from one another -- treatment will require a mastectomy. At this point it does not look like chemotherapy, or radiation treatment will be necessary.

This is not a battle that we have chosen. However, it is now a reality in our lives, and will forever affect our and family.

I am 100% behind my wife in this. I will support her in any way I can to help her through this time of great challenge and need.

We do not know why this challenge is ours, but we place ourselves in God's hands, and will trust in his plan for us.

I have decided to start a new breast cancer blog, called: DCIS Husband.

Just in the few days that I have been involved in the breast cancer world, I have found minimal resources for husbands of breast cancer patients. In my own small way, I hope to perhaps be of benefit for other husbands who have and will go through this same experience.

It will also give me an emotional outlet as we journey through this experience together.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Berlin Wall

I was able to see a portion of the Berlin Wall on a recent trip to Dallas, Texas. The hotel I was staying at, the Hilton Anatole, has a large collection of artworks and artifacts. This section of the Berlin Wall was a part of their collection.

I took a few minutes and thought about the significance of the Berlin Wall in 20th Century history. It was literally the dividing line between the communist East, and the democracies of the West.

Ronald Regan Delivering his "Tear Down This Wall"
speech at the Brandeburg Gate in Berlin.

June 12, 2007 was the 20th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's famous "Tear Down This Wall" speech.

The key passages was this:
"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
You can read the full text of the speech here.

But even better, through the magic of You Tube, you can watch an excerpt of this famous speech yourself:

Amazingly, that line was struck from the speech several times. The speech writer, Peter Robinson, had originally written the line. But whenever the speech was vetted with State Department, and National Security advisers, they kept striking this passage from the speech. They were afraid that this line was too provocative, and too bold.

Finally, President Reagan had to sit down with his advisers, and remind them that he was the president, and he would say whatever he wanted to say.

The Berlin Wall Being Torn Down

Well the rest, as they say, was history. Within 2 1/2 years, the wall really did come down. Within another year or so, the whole Soviet Empire collapsed, and freedom was restored to hundreds of millions of people who were formerly behind the Iron Curtain. And that Iron Curtain was most symbolized by the Berlin Wall.

All I can say is: I really miss The Gipper!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Great Escape

Last Sunday, my wife and I gave talks at the Westridge Academy for Girls. This is next to the Westridge Academy for Boys (formerly known as the Utah Boys Ranch). Both schools are a residential treatment facility for troubled teens.

Here are a few excerpts from my talk that I would like to share:

I remember when I was in college, I found myself getting into some problems with my schoolwork. I was getting behind in my classes, and I was taking some classes for which I was not adequately prepared. The end of the semester was approaching, and the day of reckoning was night at hand.

I used to have a think spot up Provo Canyon, overlooking Deer Creek Reservoir. I would driver there when I needed some time to be alone, to think and ponder. As pressures began to mount, I decided to go to my usual think spot to try and sort things out. However when I got there, I just kept on driving. The next thing I knew, I found myself on Interstate 80 – headed for Denver.


I hadn’t planned for a long trip when I left. I didn’t bring anything with me -- no cash, no change of clothes, no food nor drinks, not even a toothbrush! I lived off of gas station hot dogs and soft drinks. (I did have my oil company credit card with me.)

At first my road trip seemed exciting. I drove all night long. I arrived in Denver and found a room to stay in – in what I later learned was a bad part of town. I went to a Hockey Game in Denver. It was minor league hockey back in those days, and the team from Salt Lake was in town playing the local Denver Team – The Salt Lake Golden Eagles vs the Denver Spurs.)

As I sat in that cheap motel room, I began to think again about my situation, and the difficulties from which I was trying to escape. Even though I had driven some 500 miles, my troubles just followed right along with me! I just couldn’t shake them!

Nowhere To Hide

I realized then and there that no matter how far I ran, my problems were still with me. You can’t run away from your troubles, and you can’t run away from the Lord -- no matter how far you go. You can’t run away from who you are. You are still a child of God no matter what. You are still accountable for your actions no matter where you go.

There is no place on earth that is so far away, but that the Lord knows you are there. He is always there, and he always knows where you are. No matter how far away you go, and no matter what you may have done – The Lord already knows all about you. There is no place we can hide.

God will always be our Father, and we will always be his children. There may be times in our lives when we turn away from him, and don’t acknowledge Him as God, and that He is Father. However, that does not change the fact that he exists, and that we are his children.

He will never turn away from us – even if we have turned away from Him. No matter how far we may think we are Him – He is always only a prayer away! He will always listen. He will always answer when we call upon Him.

I know in my life, that He has never given up on me – even when there were times when I may have given up on myself.

The Master Physician

Christ can lift our burdens. He can heal our wounded souls, and He can mend our broken hearts. He is the Master Physician.

I know that he lives. That He is the Son of God. And that he is the Savior of the World.

He knows you, and he knows your heart. He knows what troubles your soul, and he knows how to heal you.

He has touched my life. He has calmed soul, bound up my broken heart, and has given me peace, understanding, and hope of a glorious eternity – provided that I honor the covenants I have made with Him.

These blessings are available to all. Every soul is precious to the Lord. I know He can heal our hearts, if we will let Him in.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

On Pins and Needles

It's been a while since I last posted. A lot has happened. A lot of Good has happened.

In my last post I mentioned that I had been feeling blue, and had been having a lot of doubts about myself. I even wondered if I might be suffering from depression. I think I have gotten over that hump. Some things have really changed for the better. Other things will be changing for the better in the near future. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and I don't feel so helpless, or hopeless anymore.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was about to undergo an EMG test -- which tests nerve response. Let me say, now after having undergone this test, that if you are about to have this test, that you should be prepared to become a human pin cushion.

When I was escorted into the exam room, I got to dress up in one of those delightful hospital gowns.

Next thing I know, the doc comes into the office sharpening his needles like a chef wielding his knives at Benihana. He explained that these were very small needles -- only 26 gauge!

I'm here to tell you that 26 gauge or not, by the time you get poked more than 50 times by these needles, that they all feel like blunt pencils being shoved into you!

The doc was accompanied by a very nice, and very young, medical assistant. She was all of about 20 years old. Take nothing away from her, she did a very good job of working the very complicated diagnostic equipment. As it turns out, she was from the small town of Fredonia, Arizona -- and was very impressed that I actually knew where she was from. I told her of a trip our family took a few years ago to Kanab, Utah. We went through her home town on that trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The testing started out with a few "warm ups" for my nerves. The idea being that the test would better gauge my nerve responses if they were properly "warmed up" prior to the testing. The doc stuck a needle in my leg just below the knee, and another one in my ankle. Then they hooked a couple of alligator clips onto each needle and sent a "mild" electric shock through them. Next thing I knew, my leg was uncontrollably kicking. Then another set of needles were inserted above and below my ankle, and the electric shocks were sent through, and my ankle started flailing about like a fish out of water. Several other nerve groups were "warmed up" too. Now I was ready for the real test to begin. To be honest, I had had just about enough during the warm ups alone!

The needles for this test were always inserted in pairs. Every time a test was run, it had to complete a circuit. All the nerve groups from the lumbar area of my back down to my toes were tested. This included the rather indelicate testing of the nerves in my gluteal muscles. Let's just say that the medical assistant deserves to get combat pay. She had to see places where normally the sun doesn't shine -- we're talking the dark side of the moon here folks!

Another thing about the test. You not only have the pain from the prick of the needles, but when the electrical charges pass through, they have to turn up the current, until basically, it starts to hurt like heck. I always knew if he got a good reading or not, because if it didn't hurt, it didn't read.

As the test went on -- first up and down one leg, and then up and down the other -- we chit-chatted about various things. We (the doc and I) talked with the young medical assistant about her hometown of Fredonia, an how it is the gateway to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. As it turns out, her parents own cafe's in Fredonia and in Kanab. We continued gabbing on about various other things -- which helped to pass the time during the test -- AND helped me to keep my mind off how much pain I was experiencing.

At one point about half-way through the test, the doc asked me if I was enjoying myself. I had to answer with an honest, "No, not really." I think this poor doc is beginning to get a complex about not being very well liked by his patients. He looked rather resigned when I gave him my matter-of-fact answer. It is my understanding that this doc specializes in these kinds of diagnostic tests at the Spine Clinic. This doc has a really nice bedside manner -- for a guy who is constantly needling his patients all day long. (Pun intended!)

We kept on chatting through to the end of the test. Although I was in pain during the test, I tried to be as pleasant as possible throughout the procedure. I didn't yip, or spit, or curse, or anything! Near the end, the doc commented that I should be teaching a patient education class about proper decorum and behavior for an EMG test. I guess some folks really have some negative reactions to being poked, shocked, and jolted like that. I like to think that I proved to be a welcome respite for the doc and his assistant from patients who might have a very unpleasant reaction to this test.

The results of the test were kind of mixed. The good news was that I don't have any serious nerve damage coming from the nerve roots out of my lower back. He did find that I might benefit from a steroidal injection to the left side of my lumbar area. That surprized me a little, because I feel like I am having more trouble with my right side than with my left. Especially with my right leg going numb after being on it form more than about 15 minutes at a time.

This test also confirmed what I already knew to be true. I have peripheral neuropathy in both of my feet. Although my symptoms were consistent enough for a diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy, this was the first objective test that definitively proves that what I am suffering from is in fact neuropathy. This diagnosis also came with a bright side. He told me that the nerve "wires" were not damaged. The problem stems from the fact that the sheathing around the nerves has been damaged. This results in far too much input being received by the nerves, which results in the weird combination of numbness, tingling, a burning sensation, and pain.

Since the problem is with the sheathing, and not the actual nerve itself, that means that there is a chance (but no guarantee) that in time, the sheathing could re-generate, and this condition could diminish, or go away altogether one day. The time period for this potential regeneration will not be measured in weeks or months - but probably years. Maybe as much as 5 years.

It's now been about 1 full year since the onset of this condition, which was a result of a side effect from the drug Flagyl. Flagyl is a nasty drug, and is only used in extreme circumtances -- which I was in a year ago. I have since learned some really nice things about Flagyl. Here are some excerpts from a statement on Flagyl from the FDA:
Metronidazole (Flagyl) has been shown to be carcinogenic
in mice and rats. (See PRECAUTIONS.)
Unnecessary use of the drug should be
avoided. Its use should be reserved for the conditions
described in the Indications and Usage
section below.

And then there is this regarding peripheral neuropathy:
Two serious adverse reactions reported in patients
treated with Flagyl (metronidazole) have been convulsive
seizures and peripheral neuropathy, the
latter characterized mainly by numbness or paresthesia
of an extremity. Since persistent peripheral
neuropathy has been reported in some patients
receiving prolonged administration of Flagyl,
patients should be specifically warned about these
reactions and should be told to stop the drug and
report immediately to their physicians if any neurologic
symptoms occur.

I honestly don't remember if I received this warning or not about Flagyl. I did call my then Dr. at the time (no response from him for a couple of days). With no response from my Dr. I called the home health care pharmacist. I explained that I was having this constant pain and numbness in my feet, for about the last week, and I wanted to know if any of the medications I was taking might be causing this. He promptly looked it up, and said that Flagyl might have that effect. He told me to not take any more of it until he could consult with my Dr. Somehow, he was able to get through to my former Dr. (when mere a mere patient couldn't get through) and confirmed with him that I should stop taking this drug.

I don't harbor ill will for the Dr. Flagyl may very well be responsible, at least in part, for saving my life. It's true that I have since changed doctors, because I felt like he was too slow to act, and not aggressive enough when my health was headed for crisis. If I wanted to, I could point the finger of blame for getting me into that crisis in the first place, and blame him for the after effects that may hamper me for years to come, if not for the rest of my life.

For now, I rely on heavy doses of neurontin and and ibuprofen every day, just to keep my neuropathy controlled to the point that I can function.

So the EMG test confirmed what I already knew. Not that it really makes a difference. However I now have proof, if every anyone questions me, that I really do have peripheral neuropathy. It's not just in my head --- its in my feet!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I'm Still Here, After All

Hi people! I'm still here. I've been a very bad blogger lately.

Oh, I could make a lot of excuses -- real life getting in the way of my blogging, several talks and lessons I've had to prepare for during the last little while. I have been facing health issues, some of them old, and some new ones too.

I think of things to write about during the day (when I should be working), but then when I get home, I just haven't had the energy.

I'm not sure, but I may have been going through a mild bout of depression. Here is a list of symptoms of depression from the National Institute of Mental Health:


  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
Of the 11 symptoms listed above, I think I have experienced about 7 of them during the last few weeks. For privacy reasons, I'm not going to mention exactly which ones of these have been working on me - but I will say that I have NOT had any self destructive thoughts or actions.

Health issues are at the heart of these feelings. I don't have any health issues right now that are life threatening (thankfully!). The health problems I am dealing with now are those that restrict what activities I can participate in, and in some cases are debilitating.

I have recently been having a lot of trouble with my back. I have had some back pain, and a lot of shooting pain and numbness in my legs. Right now I can't stand up or walk for more than about 15 minutes, until my legs start going numb.

My back has never been the same since I pulled that all-nighter back in October, when we installed a new server at work. I just way overdid it that day-and a night-and a day. And, as Clint Eastwood would say, "A man as got to know his limitations!"

After suffering with this problem, and some days I have hardly been able to walk, I finally was able to get the help I think I need. I was referred to the Intermountain Spine Institute for evaluation and treatment. After undergoing an MRI, I learned that I have 5 mildly bulging disks in my lumbar region, and pinched nerves due to stenosis in the last 3 lumbar vertebrae.

Tomorrow, I will be undergoing an EMG (Electromyogram) test. This will test the muscles in my legs to determine if they are receiving normal nerve impulses. I may also get some answers about the nerve damage to my feet that has been a problem since last May. I have a follow-up appointment with my Physiatrist to review the test results, and more fully discuss treatment options.

I have already started physical therapy to help strengthen my back and abdominal muscles, with the hope of being able to alleviate some of the back and leg pain that I have been experiencing. I have enjoyed the workouts so far. It it has been positive for me to be actually doing something about this problem. If nothing more, it is helping me to get exercising again. The exercise has helped my mental attitude, and has been empowering as well.

I want to take this opportunity to turn over a new leaf, and to shake things up. I want to get control over my health. Along with the various medical treatments I am undergoing, I want to focus on getting exercise, eating better, getting more (and better quality) sleep, and losing weight.

I know that's a lot of things to deal with. But I have to make the effort to change. It is worth it. I am 48 years old, and there have been times during the past few months that I have felt more like I was 68. I still have a family to raise, and things I want to do. Right now my health is preventing me from doing many of the things I enjoy.

One of the things I enjoy is blogging, and writing. I don't want to let that slip away either. So I am going to be posting more regularly from now on. My goal is at least once a week.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

My favorite Super Bown Commercials

My favorite part of the Super Bowl is the commercials. This year I didn't feel any connection with either one of the teams. Actually, I didn't see a down of the game, except those that were featured on news.

However, I did want to see some of the commercials. I have found a couple of web sites that feature Super Bowl Adds: YouTube and IFILM. I

IFILM has a repository of super bowl commercials for the last five years. They also feature classic Super Bowl commercials going all the way back to the famous Apple Computer Ad from 1984.

My favorite commercial from this year's Super Bowl is the Blockbuster "Mouse" Ad:

My favorite Super Bowl commercial of all time is the "Cat Herders", from the year 2000:

What was your favorite Super Bowl Commercial from this year? Do you have a favorite from years gone by?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hay Days

I have recently been scanning some photos that were taken of my Grandpa's ranch, and his family.

Wow, its been a real trip down memory lane.

This photo is from the summer of 1967. That year we had a bumper crop of hay on grandpa's ranch. The rain came at just the right time, and in just the right quantity to make the grass and hay grow like crazy. The the rain nicely stayed away while we were trying to harvest the hay.

That is me at about age 9 in the straw hat and cowboy shirt.

Standing next to me is my Grandpa Hatch in his trademark bib overalls (pronounced "over-haul's") and green long sleeve JC Penny work shirt. Notice that he even kept the top button of his shirt done-up, so as to keep out hay and dust.

On the other side of grandpa is his Newphew Don. He was a great help to grandpa. I assume that much of the money Don earned would later be used to finance Don's mission, and possibly later college at Utah State University. Don would later become a civil engineer.

Seeing the machinery is a journey in the "way-back machine" as well. That is our Ford 861 tractor, that would have been about the same age as me. The implement behind it is a New Holland Haybine. The haybine would cut hay like a mower, crimp it to assist in the curing process, and then dump the hay out in a windrow, all ready for later baling. Previous to buying the haybine, the mowing and windrowing of the hay were two separate processes. This machine was a real labor saver.

In about another 5 years from this time, I would be operating this machinery myself. Farm and ranch kids learn how to operate tractors and machinery at very young ages. I think I started driving at about age 9 or 10. My first vehicle was a Willey's jeep. Grandpa would put the Jeep in "Granny Low" range. That way, even if I would "pop" the clutch, it still wouldn't kill the engine.

I was driving jeeps and tractors at a very young age. I was about 13 or 14 before I was allowed to operate the more serious machinery, like the hay baler and the haybine. Most of my driving was on private property on grandpa's ranch. If I did need to drive a vehicle or tractor into town, I would always just follow along behind grandpa in another vehicle, to make sure I was safe.

By the time I turned 16 and took driver's ed, learning to drive was no big deal for me. I already knew the mechanics of driving, I just needed to learn the rules of the road. Well, that and how to drive a high speeds. Grandpa insisted on a speed limit of 25 mph in the Jeep -- and even that was rare. Most of the dirt roads/trails on the ranch would tolerate only about 10-15 mph. When I took driver's ed in 1975, we still had 70 mph speed limits on the freeways (the double-nickel days of 55 mph were just around the corner.)

You can see other family photos I have scanned here. Most of them are from the 1960's.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Chinook, Anyone?

OK, I’m ready for a Chinook! Not the fish – the weather pattern.

Nighttime temperatures around here have been hovering around or below zero degrees Fahrenheit for the last few days. I'm afraid the usual pattern of winter temperature inversions in the Salt Lake Valley is settling in. I’m ready a January thaw. Now! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get a Chinook’s here!

In case you are unfamiliar with what a “Chinook” is, here is a good definition from The Weather Notebook:
“The Chinook Wind is not called "snow eater" for nothing! This western wind can vaporize a few inches of snow in two hours, skipping the better known phase of melting known as slush. How does this happen?

Chinook winds blow in from the Pacific in late winter and early spring. Their moisture evaporates as they pass over the Rocky Mountains. Once the winds come down from the mountains onto the high plains, the air can be quite mild and extremely dry,. When a Chinook takes effect local temperatures can warm up from as low as 5 degrees below zero to 60 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The air is so dry that when it hits snow, it sucks up the moisture, changing the snow directly into water vapor, bypassing the liquid slushy phase-- entirely. Called sublimation, this is a common way for snow to disappear quickly in arid climates.”
Chinooks happen frequently during the winters in Alberta, Montana, and other areas along the Eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains.

I haven’t had the privilege of witnessing one of these myself. Although I’d really like to – right about now would be nice, as a matter of fact!

I’ve heard wonderful legends of Chinooks as told from first-hand accounts by my Southern Alberta relatives. The best one I remember was a time when a Chinook came to the town of Cardston, Alberta area. The Chinook came to town, but only partway. Half the town was warm and thawed, while the other half was still frozen with snow and ice. There was about a 50 degree temperature difference between the two halves of town.

Great Stuff!

Now, wouldn’t a Chinook be nice right about now?

Monday, January 15, 2007

So Where's Captain Moroni When You Need Him?

President Bush's recent speech on Iraq came off as uninspiring to me. I really wanted him to outline the difference between what we have been doing in the past, and what has changed now with this new course of action. He did mention a few nuanced differences in policy and troop usage, but there was not much of a contrast between past polices and the new approach.

I viewed this as an opportunity for the President to rally people around the cause. I had hoped that he would outline just how important Iraq is to help ensure our safety here in the USA, and for success in the overall war on terror. With the current political climate in the United States, this truly is our last, best hope to achieve success in Iraq. I want us to succeed, and I support the President in his plans to secure Baghdad.

The majority of congress is against the president. Who knows what the 2008 election will bring. If the Democrats win the presidency, we all know what will happen -- our troops will be coming home from Iraq forthwith! And Iraq will fall into total chaos and civil strife. Terrorists could take over the Iraq's oil reserves (2nd largest known oil reserves in the world.) If that were to happen, there would be no shortage of funding to support terrorist operations around the world, including the obtaining of weapons of mass destruction. Pulling out of Iraq now might lead to a broader regional conflict in the future (possibly involving Israel). Such a conflict may draw us back into the region to protect the flow of oil in the Persian Gulf.

The whole political dynamic of the middle East is going shift -- one way or the other -- depending upon the outcome of events in Iraq. If freedom and democracy are established, freedom might bloom in other neighboring nations as well. If we fail in Iraq, terrorism and instability in the Middle East will reign.

The future of Israel is also at stake. If Iraq falls to the terrorists, there will be more guns pointed at Israel. Israel will be forced to take action on its own. Heretofore, Israel has let the US do much if its work for them, to help ensure their security. Without a significant US presence in the Middle East, Israel may have to take matters into its own hands. If that happens, a powder keg could be set off in the middle east. (Especially if Iran is allowed to get nukes).

President Bush gave a nice speech, but I didn't come away from it with a greater confidence in the president, nor with great confidence in the plan he laid out.

As genuine and well intended as President Bush is, there are times like these when we need a "Great Communicator" as was President Reagan. There have been times when George W. Bush has come off as Reaganesque, such as his speech at the National Cathedral after 9-11, and his speech to the joint session of congress in September 2001. However, we haven't seen that George W. Bush for quite some time now.

What we needed was a Captain Moroni Moment. In the Book of Mormon when the forces of the Lamanites were surrounding the Nephites, and when there was great political division and insurrection at home, Captain Moroni stood up before the people, took off his coat, tore off a piece of it, and wrote upon it the Title of Liberty: "In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children." Then he hoisted this title of liberty upon a pole before the people, and rallied them around the cause of liberty and freedom. (See Alma 46:12-13)

I don't doubt the sincerity of President Bush. I know his heart is in the right place. I only wish that he was better at getting his message across in a more convincing manner. It might have convinced the American public to at least give his plan an opportunity to succeed, and have a little more confidence in their president. As it is, the Democrats in Congress -- and it would appear the majority of the American public -- are unwilling to give President's plan a fair shake.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

Today would have been my Grandpa Kenneth Hatch’s 100th Birthday. He made it to 96 years of age before passing away, four years ago this March.

Grandpa lived most of his life in the town of Randolph, Utah a town of about 500 to 1000 people (population has varied from time-to-time over the last century) and well-known for is cold temperatures. His family moved there when he was 3 years old in 1910. Outside of the 2 years he spent on his mission, and a few months away as a student at the University of Utah -- he spent 91 of his 96 years in Randolph. Whenever he was away from town for any length of time, he would become restless and fidgety and would want to return home as soon as possible.

It was not an easy life for grandpa in Randolph. At age 14, his father was killed in a gun accident. Someone came to visit my great-grandfather at his sheep camp. The visitor had looked at the rifle, leaned it on the wagon wheel of the sheep camp and went inside to visit. Somehow the sheep camp was jostled and the gun fell and discharged, which fatally wounded Grandpa's father.

From that time on, grandpa tried to help support himself as much as possible. He began with 3 pet lambs, which eventually grew to 15 head of sheep. He also raised calves, and trapped muskrat, skunks and coyotes to earn money. Through these activities, he was able to help pay for the expenses associated with going to high school, and 1 semester at the University of Utah.

In about 1928, he bought some land on Little Creek, about 5 miles outside of town. Later when Grandpa was called on a mission, he leased this land to his brother-in–law while he was away.

Missionary Experiences

In 1929 he was called to serve in the Western States Mission, which was headquartered in Denver, Colorado. He left on April 13, 1929. He first went to Salt Lake City to go to the temple, and receive instruction from General Authorities before proceeding to his assignment. He received instruction from David O McKay, and James E. Talmadge, among others. On April 25, 1929 he boarded a train to Denver, Colorado. When he arrived, he found that his mission president, Elias S. Woodruff, (son of Wilford Woodruff) had been born in Randolph in the Woodruff log cabin (which now is a historical site).

Grandpa Described some of his first missionary experiences in his journal as follows:
  • On the second day of his mission, he had his first experience riding a bicycle.
  • On May 27, 1929, he had his first experience as a missionary with a dog. Grandpa said: “It was little, and it was brown, and he had me by the leg!”
  • On June 19, 1929 he had his first street meeting, which he described as: “Kind of a shaky business.”
Meeting Grandma

On October 20, 1929, grandpa was diagnosed with appendicitis. He was sent by train from Grand Junction, CO to Salt Lake City for treatment.

While in the hospital, a certain student nurse, named Lucille, admitted him to the hospital.

Well, one thing led to another, and sparks began to fly. Lucille managed to find clever ways for them to meet together. Her friend and roommate, named Fern, was the assigned to take care of him. Fern arranged ways for Lucille to meet up with grandpa, even though she wasn’t exactly assigned to take care of him.

After being released from the hospital, Grandpa stayed in Salt Lake with his Aunt Algie, for about 6 weeks until he was able to return to his mission. All I can say is that Mission Rules must have been WAY different in those days. During that time, Grandpa and Lucille were able to go on a few dates, and spend time together during her off hours. On December 1, 1929, Grandpa returned to his mission, but not before giving Lucille an engagement ring first!

Grandpa received an honorable release from his mission on April 22, 1931. A year later, he and Lucille were married in the Cardston, Alberta temple on May 5, 1932.

Hard times

Circumstances had changed a lot since Grandpa had left for his mission. The stock market crashed while he was in the hospital with appendicitis. By the time he got home, the Great Depression had set-in. Times were tough. Cash was hard to come by. There were times when they had to live on game meat. He and his brother-in-law (Uncle Hyrum) would gather firewood together up Old Canyon to burn in their stoves. Coal stoves were used to heat their home in the cold Randolph winters (Temperatures can reach 30-40 degrees below zero in the winter!) They would milk several cows, by hand, twice a day in order to sell milk to the local creamery. Grandma earned some money as well by working as a county nurse, and traveled all about Rich County on horseback, and by hitching rides with the mail carrier to Woodruff and Laketown.

Grandpa told the story of when he and grandma had to take out a loan for a sewing machine when they were first married. He just hated having to make payments “on time” as he called it. They paid off that sewing machine as quickly as they could. Grandpa would never again incur any other debts throughout his life, with the exception of mortgages for land purchases – which he also always paid off early. He was always very frugal and careful with how he spent his money.

On the other hand, Grandpa was also very generous with is money. There were many people who he would help who were in need, always in a very quiet way. Sometimes that help involved bringing young men, who we would call “at-risk” youths nowadays, to the ranch to work. The deal was: he would give them a job, and they would stay out of trouble. Grandma and Grandpa maintained lifelong relationships with some of these young men.

The Ranch

Grandpa Hatch would eventually purchase additional tracts of land that adjoined his property. Eventually he would own nearly 2,000 acres of land. About 800 acres of it was cultivated farmland, with the remainder being rangeland for pasturing livestock.

Grandpa started out as a sheep rancher, but converted to cattle in the late 1940’s. Eventually he would have about 250 head of cattle. He would raise the calves each year, and eventually would sell them to feed lots in the Midwest, where the calves would be raised until they were ready to go to market.

One unique thing about grandpa’s cattle operation was that he always raised enough hay and grain to feed his cattle through the winter. He never had to buy feed for his cattle from others. In this way he was always self-sufficient. In fact, he would usually sell any extra hay to his neighbors, and extra grain to feed companies, which provided a little extra income.

However selling the calves each year was his main source of income. Income would vary depending on the number of calves, and upon market prices each year. Cattle buyers would visit him each year. They would offer to contract with him to buy calves at a fixed price in the fall – call it cattle futures. He could contract with one of these buyers if he wanted to, or he could wait until the fall (usually around November each year) and get whatever the going rate was at the time. He had to know the market enough to decide whether to contract early, or wait for the fall market prices if he thought the contract price offered was a low-ball offer (which they usually were.)

Grandpa would save as much money as he could each year. Eventually he would have a large enough nest egg, that he was able to finance his own operations even in the lean years, without having to take out loans. It always amazed me to go with him to a car dealership, or an implement company and see him write out a check for a new car, truck, or a new tractor. (Actually, it was Grandma who wrote out all the checks.) But that’s just the way he did things. He was able to achieve relative financial security as a result.

Family and Church

Grandpa Served in many church callings. His two favorite assignments were as Stake Mission President, and as an ordinance worker in the Ogden Temple. In each of these, he was able to use his outgoing, gregarious personality as he reached out to others, in the service of God.

Grandma and Grandpa had 4 daughters, 17 grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren. I was the third grandchild, and the first grandson. As such I was the first boy in the family. I spent all of my summers as I was growing up on grandpa’s ranch. It was a wonderful opportunity that I will always cherish. You can read more about my experiences on the ranch here.

After the Ranch

While I was on my mission, grandpa sold the ranch. He was nearly 70 years old at the time, and age was catching up with him. It was probably the right decision, but selling the ranch nearly broke his heart. There is something about putting so much of yourself – literally your blood, sweat, and tears into the land. Then not to have that land any longer – your whole life’s work – its almost too much to take. So many memories, over every inch of that land. Land that he had worked for more than 50 years! Grandpa could hardly drive past the ranch in his later years. It was just too painful for him to even look at -- knowing that it was not his anymore.

I think I know a little of how he felt. So many of my memories are in that place. My memories only span a period of about 15 years. However they were my formative years as I was growing up, and my experiences on there on the ranch are forever embedded into who I am. The ranch will always be a part of me that I will carry with me, wherever I go for the rest of my life. When I drive past the ranch now, the memories flood through me as well. Now that grandpa is gone, I see things that no one else sees. I know things about that place that no one else knows – even things that the current owners will never know.

Grandpa was always a busy, up-and-doing "Type A" kind of person. Having nothing to get up for each morning really made him feel like he was not being useful. He tried to busy himself by helping out on his nephew’s ranch, but that didn’t really make him feel useful either. Finally, he and grandma became Temple workers, and then they felt like they were doing something useful and worthwhile once more.

Being a temple worker also worked on him. I noticed that some of the rough edges – like salty language, etc. – that you might expect to find in a rancher disappeared after he worked in the temple. His temple service in turn served to refine an polish him in his later years.

Then came the years of declining health. Grandma’s health failed first. Grandpa took care of her the best he could, with the assistance of my mother. Eventually grandma passed away. My mother continued to assist grandpa for another 5 years, until grandpa got his final wish – to be reunited with his eternal sweetheart.

We miss grandma and grandpa Hatch. They were fine people, who have given us, their family, a wonderful heritage and legacy. We look forward to being reunited with you again one day.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Are You Still Here?

If you are reading this post, it means that you are still here upon this earth, and that God has granted unto you the privilege of living in mortality for yet another year.

This past year has been a challenge for me. It was filled with unforeseen health challenges. There were times when, if events had gone differently, I might not have been granted the privilege of seeing yet another year here on this earth.

I learned to cherish health as a great blessing. Although I am no longer facing life-threatening health challenges, I still have my battles, mostly with peripheral neuropathy and psoriatic arthritis. These challenges have made mobility difficult at times. I am on medication to treat both of these conditions. It is my hope that in time, the medications will help bring these conditions under control. But for now, I have some relatively good days, and then again some days in which I have a hard time getting around.

The decisions of life and death are in the Lord's hands. If it were his will, I could have easily been a Missionary in the Spirit World right now. However, I believe that my being here indicates that it is His will that I yet remain upon this earth. I still have a work to do here: I have a wife and two children to support and take care of. I still need to see my children through to adulthood, and get them on their own. I will have opportunities come to me to serve in the kingdom of God on earth as well. We never know how the Lord may choose to use us to influence others for good. And in the process of serving Him, our souls will be enlarged as well.

Another reason that I am still here is that I still have a lot of work to do on becoming more Christlike. I know I have much yet to do in this regard. Having more time here on earth gives me the chance to improve myself, to overcome my weaknesses, and try to become more like the Savior.

The Prophet Alma said:
And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God. (Alma 42:4)
According to this, I am on probation, with the Lord being my parole officer. I have to check in with Him each week and report my progress, as I partake of the Sacrament. It is up to Him to decide when my probation is over. For now, I will continue to walk in the path upon which He has marked the way.

So, now that God has granted each of us the privilege of another year on earth, how are we going to use it?

I would like to issue a challenge to myself and to each of you:
  • Choose one thing that you are doing wrong now, and stop doing it.
  • Choose one thing that you are not doing right now, that you should be doing.
Ask the Lord to help you know what these two things should be. Make a decision, and write it down. Commit to yourself, and to the Lord that you will make these changes. Work on them, stay with it. If you slip up, don’t be discouraged, don't get down on yourself. Just renew your resolve to change, and keep at it. Eventually these changes will become second nature to you. Then you can select what you should work on next.

If you take it one step at a time, real progress can be made. At the end of this year, you will be able to see the changes for good in this life. You will have good things to report to your parole officer.

The Lord is pleased when we desire to repent, and change, and follow his will. He will bless you in your righteous efforts, and will help you to achieve your goals. You are precious to Him, and he wants for you to return to his presence, and live with him one day.

I hope your New Year goes well. -- And I'm glad that you are still here too!