Crazy Days

Yesterday and today = crazy days.

I spent yesterday battling Joe Biden for room on the front page of the Scranton Times Tribune. One of the reporters of the paper wrote a nice, long article about me for the Sunday paper. #localcelebrity. I had a bunch of friends and neighbors reach out to me to comment on the article. I am really pleased with the article – although I am sure there are many more interesting people in this city. I am also happy to charge $20-30 per autograph.

Today was a crazy day. It is the first day of my first chemo cycle. The first thought in my mind as I woke up was “chemo.” I wanted to stay in bed and not face the day. After about 20 minutes of laying in bed with the word “chemo” shouting at me I got up and got moving. I have four pills to take today. It should have been easy – but I spent a good time sitting at the table staring at the pills. I thought of nothing but chemo for the first two hour of the day. That included a trip to the local Rite Aid to get anti-nausea medication. Nothing but chemo….what is it going to do to me? How am I going to feel? How sick am I going to get? How tired will I be? Will I be able to do what I need to be doing? Nothing but chemo.

I spent some time listening to familiar worship songs on youtube after I returned from the pharmacy. The songs settled me down and centered me in the providence and power of God. I finally ended up taking the pills around 11:00 in the morning.

Taking the pills raised a buttload of questions as well. What do I do now? When am I going to feel this? What is it going to feel like? How long will it feel like that? If I eat lunch, will I get sick?

I have felt fine most of the day, just really tired. I don’t sense any other side effects at this time. I took a two hour nap this afternoon – and four hours later I am tired again.

So – day one of chemo in the books. A week to rest up and my next treatment is next Monday.

Tim Schwartz Face Jello – Iteration #1

As promised, I tried to turn my radiation mask into a jello mold. Iteration #1 was about 40% successful. After I cut the mask down to a reasonable size to pour jello in, we fired up the stovetop to boil some water to make some green goo. After much consideration, Jenn and I used parchment paper to hold the jello in the mask (Saran Wrap wouldn’t take the boiling water, wax paper would make things waxy, etc). It did a fairly good job of not letting the liquid goo seep out of the mask. We will continue to do what we can to improve the Tim Schwartz Jello Face.

You can see a couple of things in this picture. First, you can see the nose is a little distinguishable from the mask. We were not totally sure what the nose would do – but we thought the nose would be crucial to the mold. Unfortunately, the eyes and mouth are not distinguishable on the mask, which is revealed in the jello. I am thinking that next time I will have to stick some olives or something awful like that in where the eyes will be.** You can also see that I had some trouble getting the mold out of the face mold. The chin and sides of the jello fell apart. The fourth thing to observe is that the jello mold can out very scaly. Some have told me it looks like a Swedish Fish. Although offensive, I have to agree that it looks kind of weird. I am not showing it off at the local county fair anytime soon.

** It is unlawful to serve jello with fruit or Cole slaw or any other shit in it. Jello should be served just a jello – chunky jello is gross, disgusting and downright illegal. Do you hear that 1970’s? Chunky jello is gross!

Three Thoughts on the Eagles – Lions Game

Three thoughts on the Eagles -Lions game Sunday afternoon.

  1. This is a must win game against a team that is not too good. It would be tough to start a season 1-2 with a game #4 on Thursday in Green Bay. Lose on Sunday and you are staring at a 1-3 start, with the Cowboys beating a bunch of bad teams to start the season on a roll.
  2. The run game has to be better and called on more this week than last week. It is time to give the offensive line an opportunity to mash the defense throughout the game. The run game will also ease the burden on the wide receivers and tight end who have to step up due to injuries. Push toward Jordan Howard and Myles Sanders being big players this week, not Greg Ward and Mack Hollins.
  3. I am always nervous about the Eagles playing the Lions. The Eagles are clearly a better team. When you mate the teams up side by side, the Eagles come out ahead in most of the matchups. However, the Eagles have a history of stupid games against the Lions. They were down 17-0 against Washington in game 1 and had to fight back against the Falcons last week. The Eagles are having a hard time avoiding stupid games this year. I am nervous.

Eagles – Falcons Viewing Guide

Here is a quick viewing guide for Sunday night’s football game between the Eagles and Falcons:

  1. This game is on NBC Sunday night football. Watch the game on mute or with the Eagles radio broadcast on in the background. The NBC broadcast crew is awful – they ruin every game with their stupids.
  2. The Eagles are traditionally a slow starting football team. They have been for years with the anomaly of the 2017 season. Take a deep breath after the first quarter.
  3. The Eagles are traditionally a team that ends games strong. If the game is close in the third quarter, expect a good push to end the game.
  4. The Eagles cornerbacks (and coverage linebackers) are the weak link on the team this year. Although Atlanta’s Julio Jones may have a huge day, the CBs will probably do just enough to get by for the day.
  5. To say that a different way, there will be more than one point in the game where Eagles fans will lose it over Uncle Jim Schwartz’ defensive play calling. That is fair – it happens every game.
  6. Try not to lose it too much if Wentz hits DeSean Jackson for another bomb this week.
  7. I am not sure Atlanta is too good – this should be a win for the Eagles.

Seven Offseason Steps for the Phillies – for the Sake of LA

It is September 11th, and the Phillies are two games away out of the playoff race. They have been difficult to watch with poor batting and awful pitching for most of the season. Yet, they are still in the playoff race! Few people believe the Phillies will make the postseason this year. However, they are not far away. A few changes in the offseason will get them into the postseason in 2020:

  1. Fire Gabe Kapler. Kapler has cost the Phils enough wins that they will miss the playoffs this year. Stupid pitching changes. Stupid lineup changes. Over reliance on statistics. He is lifting above his weight class.
  2. Focus on player development at all levels of the organization. Spend stupid money to attract better coaches throughout the minors and in the big leagues. The Phils struggled this year because none of Zach Eflin, Vince Velaquez, Nick Pivetta or Jared Eickhoff was able to make the jump to the level of stand out major league pitcher. It has been generations since the Phillies have developed multiple stand out major league pitchers. There needs to be a push throughout the entire system on teaching pitchers situational pitching and batters situational batting.
  3. Spend stupid money on pitchers. Only sign pitchers who are not retreads. No Madison Bumgarner. Unfortunately, no Cole Hamels. No other old dudes that are bargains because of their age but will join Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshack and David Robertson on the disabled list.
  4. Say goodbye to the dead weight on the 40 man roster. Say goodbye to the AAAA players on the roster (those that can get by in AAA but not in the majors). Good bye Andrew Knapp, Roman Quinn, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshack, Nick Williams, Phil Gosselin, and the names go on and on… Convince some other team that Hector Neris would be a good set up man for their bullpen.
  5. Sign a quality second and/or third starter. The Phils have 4-6 guys to compete for the 4th and 5th places in the rotation: Eflin, Pivetta, Velazquez, Eickhoff, Vargas, Smyly. Two can win those positions and the rest can solidify the bullpen. The Phils need solid #2 and #3 starters after Nola that will stabilize the rotation. The best teams have 2-3 solid pitchers to rely on in the playoffs.
  6. Be patient with the younger players on the roster and those who need a change of scenery. Makiel Franco needs the offseason to get into shape – less fat, more muscle. Nick Pivetta needs new coaches and a new chance. Teach the young pitchers how to situationally pitch. Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm are not going to put the team over the top and can use a bit more time in the minors.
  7. Pull the good out of this year. In spite of poor management, the Phils will finish within reach of the playoffs. In spite of awful pitching, the Phils are in the playoff race in September – and are only a winning streak out of the final playoff spot. Bryce Harper has had his best year as a pro. Scott Kingery and Adam Haseley have shown they can contribute and thrive as every day players. The Phils traded for the player who has produced the most since a trade deadline transaction – Corey Dickerson.

I was listening to the Phils game Wednesday as I was driving in the car. Zach Eflin had just given up a 3 run home run to the Braves. Larry Anderson, the beloved Phils radio announcer, was speechless for 30 seconds. He then spent a couple of moments stammering for the right words. He then took a couple of minutes to rip the pitchers, catchers and coaches for their approach to pitching this year. I thought he was going to have a stroke. For the sake of LA, please make changes this off-season!

9/11 – The Best of America

Over the past two decades, I have had the privilege to see and participate in the best of America.

9/11/2001 – I was at my new apartment waiting for the cable guy to come to set up our cable. The cable man accomplished his task by 11:00 – and I ended up watching the news for the rest of the day. In the weeks to come, we would see many reports of heroic efforts by first responders, second responders and many other people. Friends of mine coordinated volunteer teams to NYC to help clean out apartments and walk alongside people recovering from the attack. In those weeks, we saw a united country responding to the terrorist attacks. It was the best of America.

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Cast from Texas to Alabama. I led numerous trips from my church to Mississippi where we saw the best of America. We joined volunteers from across the nation in rebuilding homes and lives that had been destroyed by the storm. We cleaned homes out, rebuilt homes, cried with residents, and learned resilience and hope from residents. America was at its best on the Gulf Coast after Katrina.

in 2008 Hurricane Ike hit Galveston. Jenn and I moved to Galveston in early 2009. We saw the best of America as we worked for United Methodist Committee on Relief. We led volunteer work teams from every corner of the country as they helped people recover from the storm. We laughed with people and cried with people. We grieved with people over the loss of their livelihood. We connected residents to donated goods from all across America. We worked with people from Boston to California, North Dakota to Florida. We came to love the people we partnered with and served. It was the best of America.

In 2017 Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast near Houston. I spent more than a month in the area working with volunteer teams from PA and Kansas. I saw the best of America. These teams took time out of their schedules and/or vacation time to serve those who lived in the areas that were swamped under 55 inches of rain. They served with joyous spirits by giving all of their energy to help people move back home after the storm. It was the best of America.

I am fairly certain that the best of America is not covered by the news or media. The best of America is not found in politics, sports, business, celebrity or things like that. The best of America is found in the quiet heroes who give of themselves to serve those around them in difficult times.

Torture

In the not too recent past, I thought that if we ever needed to torture someone overseas, just send a bunch of dental hygienists to war zones and we would get all of the information we need. Dental hygienists are the worst. They spend 45 minutes with sharp, pokey things digging at your gums without abandon while talking to you about all kinds of stupid shit – asking all sorts of stupid questions while you grunt back at them. Every time you spit into that little sink, it is a bloody mess. Who wants to be a dental hygienist? They are experts at torture.

I am not a big James Bond fan, but I am sure I remember a James Bond movie where 007 is captured and tortured. He gets strapped to a table and a laser is set to obliterate him at a certain time. Fortunately for 007, he has the smarts to break out of the straps and free himself just before the laser cuts him in two.

On a similar note, I went through proton radiation therapy this summer. I was strapped to a table by a mask of my face and wasn’t able to move. Just like 007, a laser was focused on me and shot at me to do some serious damage. Unlike 007, I didn’t have the smarts to wiggle off the table and get free of the laser or turn the laser on my captors. I took a laser blast to the head 30 times this summer. It clearly blasted the hair right off of my head. Torture.

Did you ever see Zero Dark Thirty? In the first part of the movie, the CIA is torturing one of the Taliban members to get more information out of him. They use a couple of torture methods. They strip him naked and have a woman agent in the room so that the guy is humiliated in front of her. One of their torture methods is to put him in a wooden box that is barely big enough for him to fit and leave him there. He cannot move, he cannot see. He is in complete darkness and confinement for long periods of time.

On a similar note, I had a MRI last week at UPenn. I have already blogged about the humiliation of the procedure. They have you take all of your clothes off. They give you two hospital gowns (one to wear forward and the other to wear backward). They also give you a pair of disposable underwear….that is size XXXL. You get changed and use one hand to hold up the XXXL underwear and the other to be sure both hospital gowns do not fall off. It is humiliating. At some part in the process, they ask you to walk to the MRI room through a normal hospital hallway – where all sorts of people can walk through. You are holding a key to your locker with your personal stuff, your oversized disposable underwear that is falling down, and both hospital gowns. (At some point in the future, I will have to say, “Screw it. I have cancer. If people see my naked ass hanging out or my junk flying in the wind, I could care less. I have cancer.” Modesty goes out the window when you have cancer). Then, they put a catheter in your arm and tape the sucker down on top of all of your arm hair. After 45 minutes of waiting with the catheter in your arm, they walk you into the MRI room. They lay you down on the table, give you earplugs and also headphones, and then guide your head into a brace and tell you not to move. The table then moves back into the tube and the scan starts. At UPenn, they do not put a mirror on the brace so you can see out of the tube. I laid there for 40 minutes staring at the top of the tube, 3 inches away – not being able to move. On top of that, the table shakes every so often. On top of that, it is 40 minutes of pounding from the MRI machine. It sounds like someone banging a hammer on metal pipes with buzzers going off for 40 minutes. It was so loud that I couldn’t hear the music they were playing in the headphones (John Williams – a bunch of movie scores – beautiful music). It was miserable. There was nothing pleasant about it. Confinement, Humiliation, Nothing to see. Torture.