Friday, November 27, 2015

Games Brothers Play

     Aside from baseball, football was the only other sport my brothers and I would routinely play together, just the three of us.  Basketball on our non-regulation hoop took the form of HORSE or involved the kids in my mom's day care, but we could play a reasonable facsimile of football through a game we invented and named "Interception."  The name was so chosen because that was the primary indicator of success.  For instance, if my brothers were on offense, one passing to the other, my goal was to stop them from scoring, and intercepting the pass (you are not allowed to run the ball) was the best way to do that.  When we invented the game, I could have never known it would become a Thanksgiving tradition-- one which I would enjoy more than I ever thought possible once I was no longer "benched" by the condition of my health.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Birthday Images

The following images nicely sum up my marvelous 33rd birthday. 
One of my favorite meals, topped off with the only kind of cake I like, angel food, in candy bar form!

These three images perfectly capture how wonderful and nerdy my birthday was. 

I met up with my mom to shop and eat the best steak sandwich in the world last Friday.  Clearly a lot of my birthday centered around food.  That may explain why I am 40 lbs. heavier on this birthday than I was on my last one!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Exactly One Year Ago Today -- Geneses Revisited...

     The video at the end of this post was filmed on this date last year.  I was in the midst of what I described as the "best month ever" at the time, and I am so grateful that this one has been even better.  The original post, "Geneses*," is below... My goal of visiting science classes remains a reality, so if you are in the southeast Michigan area and happen to be a teacher, feel free to contact me!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Birthday Full of Wonder

     This is my 100th post to this blog, a fittingly round number on the day I turn 33 years of age.  Birthdays mean very different things to different people.  For some it is a day to celebrate, to spoil oneself and bask in some well deserved attention.  For others, it is a day to ignore, a reminder of advancing age and little else.  For me, even more so than last year on my first post-transplant birthday, it is a day to ponder.  Because now and forever more, my birthday reminds me of the life of the person who saved mine, a person whose birthdays are now a reminder of absence, what-ifs, and loss.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Simply a Marvel

     Stane Lee, one of the creators of Spider-Man, is well known for saying "Face front, true believers!"  I feel that quote is very apropos, considering that I am sharing the official, full front angle video of my Vita Redita speech today.  The Michigan Transplant Center's Facebook page posted it Monday.  Between the video my wife made that I shared on YouTube and this official version, my speech has been viewed a staggering 2,200 times.  I am stunned by this number, and incredibly happy that the potential impact of my speech is now seven times larger than it was when I spoke the three hundred people in attendance that night. 

The link to the official video:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A "Dad Can Do It" Weekend

     While day-to-day I recognize what an amazing gift my post-transplant health is, sometimes I have an extra clear window into how different and better my life is now than it was when I considered myself "healthy" four or five years ago.

     This past weekend, my son was invited to be in a flag football tournament about an hour away from our home.  The two day affair precluded him from going to hockey on Saturday, but not Sunday.  (We misread the forms and thought we were signing up for a once a weekend group, but, hey, now we get twice as much for our money!)  All told, my son spent four hours playing football and one hour playing hockey over the weekend.  On top of that, my brother-in-law gave us three 50-yard line tickets to the University of Michigan football game-- so my wife, son, and I attended as an entire family for the first time in three seasons. 

     My son was four then, and I remember thinking that I was grateful that the tickets did not require me to walk any stairs, which is only true of a tiny number of seats inside that stadium.  I thought this because it meant that if he wasn't able to behave at the game, it would be very easy to leave, and also because it saved me from the strain and embarrassment of getting winded and coughing when I reached my seat. 

     This past Saturday, I had no concerns about either of these issues.  I had spent the morning walking around an unfamiliar high school football complex, first to find my son's teammates, and later to scout out the nearest bathroom for the parents on the sideline who were concerned about the distance between our field and the main hub of the event.  By comparison, getting to a seat in a football stadium, albeit the largest one in North America, was a breeze.

     Now, all of this is not to say that I'm Superman or something.  (I'm more of a Spidey guy anyway, of course.)  After all the walking, the driving, the hauling of sideline chairs, and the lugging of hockey equipment, I was exhausted on Sunday afternoon and enjoyed a well earned nap.  But so did my wife and son.  Two years ago, I took a daily nap triggered by the exhaustion of just living my daily life, the most demanding aspect of which was folding and putting away laundry.

     The overriding realization that a weekend like the one I just had is this:  I feel so far removed from the man who, two years ago, was on oxygen and got tired just putting on a sweater that I need to take time, like I'm doing now, to record how grateful I am for how far I've come.  It would be easy to let the old me fade into memory and lose appreciation for the restoration my life has undergone.  Instead, just as I did while watching the game with my son, I maintain a laser focus on keeping the 'gratitude train' on its tracks.
After a fantastic weekend, we all wished we could take a nap during the drive home.  Only my son was afforded that pleasure.  Although "pleasure" may be the wrong word based on how uncomfortable he looks.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Over Due and Properly Developed...

     When I went on medical leave, our district was still in the "growing pains" stages of making a focused effort to eliminate the racially predictable gaps in achievement and discipline that, sadly, exist in so many schools around the nation.  I was a leader in this moment, first unofficially and then officially, as we tried to open our eyes and hearts to the realities of our own biases so that we could root them out, identify our personal and collective strengths and weaknesses in working with non-white students, and transform our entire school system into one that provides an equitable experience for all students regardless of their race, ethnicity, or background.  If this very long sentence sounds intense, that's because it is.  If it sounds like it might make teachers uncomfortable, that's because it can.  But in the two and a half years while I was unable to work, we have made marvelous strides toward more open dialogue with students and, crucially, each other, about what it looks like to be a culturally proficient educator-- one who can make every student feel like a welcome contributor to the learning environment. 

     On Tuesday, I was honored to lead a professional development session which I'd previously designed and facilitated in 2012.  Over three years ago, every teacher in my high school saw what I had put together, as teachers and administrators worked with small groups to present scenes of actual situations that had happened at our school.  Audience members were then asked to enter the scenes as the teacher, and replay them so that the racially charged or sensitive comment was handled in a way that would make the person who said it, and everyone in the room, understand the power and potential damage in saying such a thing.

     This time, it was tweaked to include scenes that had happened at the middle school level, and my co-facilitator brought her energy and passion to it during all four of our 90 minute sessions, each of which was attended by the maximum number of teacher-- 35 in the room.  A culinary arts room better served for baking cakes than improvising how to respond when a kid blurts out a racist, albeit positive, stereotype about Asian students.  But we made it work.  We received marvelous feedback.  And I felt like, once again, I've taken another step toward being the fullest version of who I can be with these new lungs and the restored life I cherish each day.

     Was I exhausted at the end of the day?  No.  I was exhausted two-thirds of the way through it, but the adrenaline of improvisation and the passion I have for this topic kept me going.  A great reality check about my current physical limitations-- wrapped inside a chance to show my colleagues, many of whom hadn't seen me in over two years, just how far I've come. 
Our session was conducted in the culinary arts room... My wife works at the district too and took a few photos when she attended. Clearly I've mastered the clicker-- and my posture is better than ever. :)