Summer, summer, summertime

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Summer is the best. I know some people are really into skiing and hot chocolate and all that jazz but give me the sunshine any day! It’s been a different sort of summer for us. Betsy’s stint on IV antibiotics was unexpected and required us to change some of our plans, but nevertheless we have had a great summer so far. We’ve spent lots of time outside and in the garden and at the pool. Here are some other things we’ve been up to over the last couple months!

Breathing Easier

Betsy has been PICC line free for almost two weeks now and has been feeling pretty good overall. She was back to see her pulmonary specialist last Friday and her FEV1 was holding strong at 38 so that was very encouraging! It’s an understatement to say that Betsy has felt liberated. She is not one to take things lying down and she certainly prefers not to be bound by the strict regiments that IV antibiotics require. Since the 4th of July, Betsy has been free to resume her normal life. She goes to bed when she wants (usually after only one or two friendly reminders from yours truly), she wakes up when she wants, she exercises when she wants. Ah, freedom!

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It’s a lot easier to play soccer with your 5 year old son without a PICC line in your arm.

 

Thank You

Even though it’s been a couple of months, I wanted to say a belated thank you to everyone who participated in the Great Strides Walk this year. We are grateful for everyone who walked with Betsy. It’s a small gesture but it’s a very meaningful one. In a lot of ways, Betsy walks the CF path alone and so it is encouraging for her to look up and see that there are people walking along side her. Thanks, too, to everyone who contributed to our fundraising efforts. As a team, we raised over $4000 that will go toward research being done by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. This important work is bringing new treatments to CF patients. It’s very encouraging and every dollar brings us closer to finding a cure. Finally, we wanted to thank to our dear friends Ross and Deb who have organized Team #Breathe4Betsy for two years in a row. Coordinating the team is a labor of love and we really appreciate their efforts that have made the last two Great Strides Walks possible.

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Team #Breathe4Betsy 2017

And I Would Walk 500 Miles…

Speaking of walking. Back in January of 2016, Betsy got a Fitbit. Last December she had a streak of 100 straight days of achieving the target of 10,000 steps per day. On July 17, Betsy completed 365 consecutive days of logging a minimum of 10,000 steps. One whole year. That’s not 500 miles. That’s approximately 2200 miles. Crazy weather conditions, being sick, dealing with back issues, a PICC line stuck in her arm – nothing has prevented her from getting out and staying active. Physical activity is so important to her overall health and being physically fit is what allows her to do so much in spite of her compromised lung function. I’m really proud of her. Long live the Fitbit streak!

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July 17, 2016. The last day Betsy didn’t walk 10,000 steps.

Detroit City F.C.

My borderline insane affection for soccer is well documented. In 2012, I started following a 4th division soccer team here in Detroit. Detroit City F.C. may technically have amateur status but you’d never know by going to the games. When I was a kid I would watch games from Europe on TV and dream of having a local team of my own to support. Now I do. The last couple of summers, though, Lucas has gotten on to the bandwagon as well. I took him to a game two summers ago and we barely made it to halftime before he was ready to leave. Fast forward to 2017 and he is almost as obsessed with the team as I am. He knows the players and pretends to be them when we play soccer in the backyard or in the kitchen (yes, we do that). A couple weeks ago we were at a game and decided to hang around for a little while afterwards. Lucas got to meet several of the players. He was over the moon!

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Lucas with some of his favorite Detroit City F.C. players!

Silver Holloware

On July 14, Betsy and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. In case you were wondering, the traditional gift for one’s 16th wedding anniversary is silver holloware. In case you were wondering, holloware is stuff like sugar bowls and tea pots. Having exactly zero need for a silver soup tureen, we decided to skip the gifts. Instead, we got take out and had a picnic at one of our favorite parks. It was a low key evening, but it was fun to reminisce about the last sixteen years and think about the next sixteen (assuming Betsy doesn’t kick me to the curb before that!).

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The day I won the lottery.

Eventually school will resume and leaves will start to change color. But there is still a lot of summer (glorious summer!) left. In a couple weeks, Lucas and I are taking a road trip to see his other favorite soccer team, Manchester United, play in Washington D.C. Lucas’s 6th birthday is coming up at the beginning of August. And we have a long weekend at Lake Michigan penciled in for later that month. I suspect Betsy may be sizing up one or two more projects around the house as well. We are having a huge pine tree removed from our yard and if I’m not mistaken, Betsy will be eyeing that plot to expand her garden. Being married for 16 years gives you a 6th sense for that sort of thing. ūüėČ

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Great Strides (Again)

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Over the years Betsy and I have participated in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Great Strides fundraising walk. It is held annually across the country during the month of May, coinciding with Cystic Fibrosis Awareness month. Last year, for the first time, some friends helped us organize a team to walk on behalf of Betsy. It was a chilly morning but such an encouragement to see so many friends and¬†family come together to support Betsy.

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Team Breath4Betsy 2016

We are walking as a team again this year. “Breathe4Betsy” was coined by one of my sisters a couple of years ago to use as a social media hashtag as a way to encourage Betsy before a particularly nerve wracking breathing test. Through a lack of other great ideas, we decided to recycle the name for our team. ¬†I’m glad the name has stuck. The name¬†is a reminder of how a simple thing such as taking a breath of fresh air is difficult for Betsy.

Of course the actual walk is only one component. Equally important is the fundraising that we are trying to do as a team. We set a team goal of $3500. Earlier this week we hit our fundraising target. We are thankful for everyone who donated to this important cause. There is so much promising research going on. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has a webpage dedicated to all of the medications in various stages of the development pipeline. None of these new treatments would be possible without research dollars. Every dollar that goes towards CF research provides Betsy and many others with the hope of a different life. When Betsy was born, the life expectancy of the average person with CF was around 18 years old. Now, a cure for the disease is within the realm of possibility.

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If you would be interested in partnering with us, we would love your support! You can donate to our team’s ongoing fundraising efforts¬†by clicking¬†here. It’s a pretty painless process. And every dollar really does make a difference!

100 (and counting!)

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One hundred of anything is usually noteworthy. Like if you owned 100 cats. Or if you live to be 100 years old. Or if you eat 100 hot dogs in one sitting. It’s kind of a big deal!

Last January I bought Betsy a Fitbit. Wearable technology was becoming more and more en vogue¬†and I thought it would be a fun and useful way for her to manage her fitness goals. Collecting data on her sleep patterns, heart rate, and workouts seemed like a useful exercise. ¬†From the beginning Betsy found it quite motivating! The default setting challenges you to log 10,000 steps each day. Apparently the American Heart Association recommends it for “improving health and decreasing the risk of heart disease” (who knew?). Betsy¬†ended up getting me a Fitbit shortly thereafter so I could join in the fun!

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So true.

The thing about having a Fitbit is that it is oddly motivating. At least for Betsy and me. The Fitbit app even gives¬†you a green star when you hit the targets for steps and¬†for two people who were always motivated by extrinsic rewards, if there is a green star up for grabs – we are going for it! We often find ourselves doing laps around the kitchen table at 10 o’clock at night to get the last 1000 steps before bed. Fitbit¬†gives you badges for bigger milestones like lifetime miles and hitting 20,000 steps in one day. In any case, it does the job. Both of us have been more inclined to be active whether it’s hopping on the treadmill or jumping up and down while we are watching TV at night.

This past¬†July, Betsy started a streak of consecutive days with at least 10,000 steps. It started innocently enough, as she strung together a week of green stars. Then a week turned into two. And then Betsy was passing even bigger milestones: 30 days, two months. On October 26, she did it. The streak reached 100 days. And there’s been no sign of letting up! Currently the streak stands at 149 days.

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The day it all began…July 18

There have been days when the 10,000 steps came easier than others. A trip to the park with Lucas including walking there and back home plus all the running around and the ups and downs on the play structure make it pretty easy to hit 10,000 steps. On days when Betsy tutors for 6 hours, it can be really challenging! It’s a testament to her determination that she’s managed to keep the streak going for essentially the last 5 months.

The funny thing is, I had started a streak of my own, three days before Betsy’s current streak began. It flamed out after 18 days. I also had a streak of 47 days going during the months of August and September. Then one night just 87 steps away from the 10,000 target, I fell asleep on the couch at approximately 11:47 PM. I was highly exasperated when I woke up at 12:16 AM and realized what I had done. My current streak is 25 days. If you’ve ever tried it, you know it’s difficult. It’s hard to consistently log those steps. Which makes Betsy’s streak even more remarkable.

After her streak had reached a certain point, Betsy decided that she wasn’t going to break it until she got sick and there was a legitimate reason for her not to be active. A few weeks ago, Betsy came down with a cold. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when she decided that she wasn’t¬†that sick and carried on without missing a day of 10,000 steps! Turns out that light exercise can actually boost the immune system. Or at least that’s what Betsy told me when I suggested she take it easy and forget about the Fitbit for a couple of days. ūüôā

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Today’s count…she’s nearly there!

Of course there will come a day when Betsy’s streak comes to an end. But it won’t be today! And it won’t be without an extremely good excuse. Like being eaten by a crocodile. ūüôā

 

 

Happy Birthday Betsy!

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Last Thursday was Betsy’s birthday! If you’ve been following the blog, she does a great job of writing special birthday posts for Lucas and for me so I thought in honor of her thirty-*cough* birthday, I would attempt to pen a similar tribute for my lovely and talented wife.

So, here are few things that make Betsy, Betsy!

‚ÄĘBetsy loves the outdoors! Whether it’s a day at the beach, a walk through the woods, or even doing work out in the yard, there’s something about the fresh air and sunshine that she especially loves. Lucas has inherited the outdoor gene. I¬†am¬†the lone indoor cat in the family. But seriously, my hair doesn’t hold up well in the elements.

‚ÄĘThis is probably not surprising but¬†Betsy, being at one with nature, also has a green thumb. She loves to plant flowers every spring and tend to them until they finally fade with the cold Michigan winter. The last two years Betsy has also planted a vegetable garden. We don’t have a ton of space and have even less sunlight due to all the trees in our yard. I’ll admit I was skeptical but somehow she has managed to coax life forth from the various pots and plots.

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Betsy and Lucas will be harvesting tomatoes and zucchini in the near future!

‚ÄĘBetsy¬†has zero sweet tooth. She literally hates 99% of all desserts. On occasion she can be persuaded to have some ice cream. She has sporadic cravings for homemade caramels. But when it comes to cakes and pies and cookies and pastries, she has very little interest. I do not understand this personally.

‚ÄĘBetsy has a remarkable memory. She can recite most of Lucas’s favorite stories without even looking at the book. She remembers phone numbers and credit card numbers from years gone by. She can recollect¬†the lyrics of obscure songs from the mid-90s after hearing the first few notes. Most importantly, she remembers where Lucas and I leave our stuff. This is most helpful. We would be lost without her!

‚ÄĘBetsy is a coffee-holic. Give her Starbucks or give her death! ¬†She always starts her day with a mug (or two) and isn’t opposed to warming up the pot in the afternoon when she’s in need of a little extra caffeine. She likes all kinds of coffee drinks but she prefers to take her coffee¬†hot and black.

‚ÄĘBetsy is practically unbeatable at Scrabble. We’ve played approximately three hundred times since we got married and I think I’ve won twice. Not only¬†is she a logophile (she would have known that word, I had to look it up) but she also possesses that killer Scrabble instinct to add an ‘s’ making a seven letter word that already contains the letters ‘z’ and ‘k’¬†plural…oh yeah, and that ‘s’ was¬†probably placed on a triple word score.

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Mission impossible.

‚ÄĘBetsy is a great mother. Dare I say, the best. She loves Lucas more than I thought was possible. She is patient and self-sacrificing. She’ll do just about anything for a smile from our boy. Even if that means making pancakes in the shape of all twenty-six letters of the alphabet or crafting a chicken coop out of popsicle sticks for his toy farm or reading The Complete Adventures of Curious George all in one sitting. Lucas is lucky to have you!

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Betsy and her favorite boy.

So happy (belated) birthday to my favorite person on the planet! Thanks for loving me and Lucas and for simply being the best!

The Chilliest Great Strides Walk of All Time

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I don’t know that for certain but I do know it was 36¬†degrees this morning when I woke up and not a whole lot warmer by the time we all met up for the Great Strides fundraising walk today. Come on people, it’s May for crying out loud!

Overall though, it was a great success! We had about 30 team members who braved the chilly weather to walk with Betsy and our team managed to raise over $4000 for cystic fibrosis research.

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(Most of) Our Great Strides Team!

We are very thankful for all of our friends and family who participated in one way or another. We are thankful for tangible expressions of solidarity and support. And we are thankful for the ongoing research that is working to develop new treatments for people with cystic fibrosis and hopefully, one day, a cure.

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Betsy, Lucas, and I rocking our pink #Breathe4Betsy headbands!

The Great Strides campaign is now done for 2016 but you can support cystic fibrosis research any time at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website!

Thanks again to everyone for their love and support!

Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control

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Just when the end of cold and flu season was within sight. Just when the weather was finally starting to feel springlike. Just when we thought things were returning to normal.

Sick again.

We had spent a really fun, long weekend in Chicago a couple of weeks ago and Betsy held up great and we all had a blast. About a week after getting back, Lucas started coughing. Betsy and I were both trying to act unconcerned, but the truth is, we were. We were literally (because Lucas is still learning to cover his mouth when he coughs) and figuratively, holding our breaths, hoping that Betsy wouldn’t catch whatever bug that had befallen Lucas.¬†And sure enough, by the weekend Betsy was down for the count. At first it was just a sore throat and sinus pressure. Then those initial¬†symptoms gave way to respiratory difficulties. Betsy told me she noticed a change in her¬†breathing.

Sigh.

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Spring, finally.

Of course that unleashed a whole wave of questions and concerns. Should we give Betsy’s body some time to fight off the virus on its¬†own?¬†When do we need call the doctor if at all? Would he want to prescribe antibiotics? Would he want¬†Betsy to go on IV antibiotics (please no please no please no please no please no)? It’s a balancing act. For obvious reasons, we don’t want Betsy to take antibiotics haphazardly because we want her body to be responsive to them when she really needs them. On the other hand, we don’t want her to¬†naively refrain from¬†taking them if she really does need them, causing a minor infection to turn into something far worse.

In the end, she did call the doctor and he did prescribe a pretty lightweight oral antibiotic which he thinks will be enough to get Betsy back on her feet. She didn’t dodge the bullet completely but it could have been worse.

I nicked the title of this post from a song by Australian psych rockers Tame Impala (PSA: If you’ve never listened to them before, you should definitely check them out! My favorite album is Lonerism). I couldn’t think of a better way to¬†sum up how I¬†have been feeling about this latest bout with illness. We’ve been washing our¬†hands, we’ve been trying to regulate Betsy’s activity, we’ve been making sure she has been getting as much sleep as possible and doing everything to minimize her exposure to the outside world, especially as she was coming off the steroids which we knew were probably suppressing her immune system. What else could we have done?

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Wild impala.

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Tame Impala.

One answer is nothing. Admittedly, it’s not one that I like. Probably the thing I struggle with the most is the feeling of helplessness. By nature I’m the sort of person that wants to try to prevent and¬†protect. I wouldn’t say I’m paranoid (although Betsy might disagree) but I’m definitely¬†√ľber alert to any danger. When Lucas was learning to walk I remember carefully inspecting all of our furniture looking for dangerous corners that he might tumble into so that we could cover them with pads and cushions. I think subconsciously, I take a similar approach to Betsy’s health. Is there someone sniffling in the row behind us at church? Have any of her students been sick in the last month?

But alas, not everything can be prevented. And that leaves me feeling distressed and annoyed. I came across a benediction that appears at the end of 2 Thessalonians the other day:

Now may the LORD of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.

I’ve been trying to keep this in mind. Because what I really need at times like this is peace. As much as I would like it to be otherwise,¬†there are¬†many¬†things that are out of my control. There are things I can’t prevent. But I trust that Betsy’s health is in God’s hands. And knowing that gives me peace.

 

If At First You Don’t Succeed

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Well, I have been putting off this post for quite some time.

A couple months back I wrote¬†about a promise¬†I made to Betsy. Knowing how much of a drag running had become for her, I pledged to run every day that she ran. It was meant to be an act of solidarity. It was meant to encourage her, to make her feel like she wasn’t the only one drudging through something unpleasant.

“What a good husband!” they said.

“What a noble gesture!” they proclaimed.

Well, I failed.

I started off well enough. It was May, the weather was great, and Betsy was really knocking it out of the park. I was feeling really inspired and motivated by wife’s unrelenting will. She didn’t enjoy it but there she was, out hitting the pavement or revving up the treadmill day after day. And so was I. On occasion I missed a run¬†but I always made it up the next day.

Then came August and the start of the soccer season.

Suddenly I was busy coaching and I started to miss a day here and a day there. Before I knew it I “owed” Betsy four or five runs. She graciously offered me the opportunity to hit the reset button and start over. I declined. I thought I could catch up. I would just go every day the next week and I would be all square. But I didn’t. One week turned into two. And before I knew it I was going to have go running every day for the next two months in order to match Betsy’s total.

I suppose there were a few somewhat legitimate excuses but in the end they were really just excuses. Exactly the sort of excuses that Betsy can’t afford to make. I’ve gone from feeling like a failure to feeling like a complete loser. In the classic 1990s movie¬†Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,¬†Robin of Locksley’s loyal companion, Azeem, suggests that “there are no perfect men, only perfect intentions.” I guess he has a point.

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It’s hard to argue with a man that carries a sword like that.

So I am getting back on the horse. I suppose I could go on about how I plan to stay on track and how this time will be different but when it comes down to it, actions speak louder than words. And¬†I have to get to running! So I’ll just leave you with the wise words of William Edward Hickson:

‘Tis a lesson you should heed,

Try, try, try again.

If at first you don’t succeed,

Try, try, try again.

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Juuuust kidding!