Thursday, June 29, 2006

Very Heavy Material to Follow

I just don't have it in me to post something serious and thought-provoking. We could debate the effects of cussing again. Anyone? Kidding. We could discuss how the Democratic Party is like the New York Knicks: no plan to improve and ready to implode. Or we could tackle some hot theological topic like birth control as the religious right creeps closer and closer to the Catholic stance on the issue. But I'm not in the mood so let's not go there, k?

Here are some questions for you:
1) Are the people of the USA any closer to embracing soccer as the World Cup wraps up or farther away than before?
2) What summer songs are on your iPod? What are you listening to out by the pool?
3) Do you have a physical space in your house that brings you peace? (For the sake of discussion and all things tasteful, let's just go ahead and forgo any answers dealing with using the toilet.)
4) Have you seen Superman? Any good? Bad? Does that random dude who plays the Man of Steel pull it off?
5) What are your plans for the 4th? I have a friend for whom the 4th is his favorite holiday (BYoung). Is it yours? Why or why not?

I know these are heady questions. Take your time as you ponder their significance in the blog-o-sphere. After you've done this, and only after, please comment.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

From Soccer to Sushi

I've been watching soccer for almost two weeks now. I've seen quite a few games. I'm bummed the US team won't advance but it's a thing of beauty that Ghana will. It's a rare thing to see the following headline: GHANA BEATS USA!
More on soccer: I've come to appreciate soccer and the athleticism it takes to play the game. The guys are incredibly coordinated (with their feet), toned and fast. But they are big, huge cry babies. Their acting skills (I need a stretcher! Oh, I feel better! No wait, bring back the stretcher! Psst, teammate, did they call the foul?) are Oscar worthy! I'm not saying there aren't legit fouls but these guys ham it up in a big way.
More on soccer: Ira digs it! His eyes get huge when the Telemundo announcers get excited...which is often.
How can you people drink your hot drinks during these summer months? Full disclosure - I don't drink coffee or any hot drinks for that matter so I don't really get it at all but I especially don't get how a hot cup of joe can be good on a 90 degree day. Someone please help me understand.
They are putting in a Dunkin' Donuts around the corner. This is not good news as donuts are my absolute favorite. People, for the love of all things diet, please help me stop the Dunkin' Donuts corporation from opening up this location. I can't afford it physically or financially! Down with Dunkin' Donuts!
Confession: Laura and I have never had sushi. This is a no-no in NYC. Some friends recently found out and want to take us to a sushi bar in Manhattan. I'm scared. I'm very, very scared.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Is there nothing sacred?

My kids could so wear this shirt:


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Where is he now?

I take for granted that friends and family know how Ira is doing and where he's at medically, physically, etc... Because I deal with Ira day in and day out I project on others that they know, too, how Ira's doing and what progress, if any, he's made. In talking with friends and family recently, I realized that people, in fact, don't know what the latest is with Ira. So here's an update on our little guy:

Ira is still on some of the same meds he was on when he came home from the NICU back in October of '05 -- such as, Prevacid for his reflux, Viagra for his pulmonary hypertension, diuretics (Aladactone and Diuril) to help alleviate the symptoms of hypertension by causing sodium and water loss through his urine, and nebulizer treatments (Albuterol and Pulmicort-a steroid) that help open and relax air passages so that he can breathe easier.

When Ira came home from the PICU back in April he was on three different barbiturates or sedation meds. He's down to one and he only has one more week of taking Phenobarbital. I believe that Ira's strength and his personality are showing through now that we are finished (almost finished) with these particular meds.

There is no prognosis - a phrase we utter many times - as to when Ira will be completely drug free. I envision Ira needing drugs for quite some time.

These past few hospital runs to the PICU really hit Ira hard physically. Ira's OT therapist and PT therapist are pushing Early Intervention to allow more sessions because of Ira's need. He's 14 months old and he just mastered sitting up. He bears no weight on his legs. When we go through that routine with him, he shakes, sweats and cries. It's hard to watch. He still prefers the secondary grasp instead of the primary grasp (google it) and doesn't tolerate complete sessions with his therapists. The good news is that we've all seen Ira make progress. He went from being lethargic to active, from weak to strong. He's capable. It's just a matter of practice.

He does indeed eat. And the cute little fat rolls on his body are proof. He doesn't eat anything through his mouth. All food - Pediasure - is given through his g-tube. All meds, for that matter, are distributed via his g-tube. We don't have clearance to start feeding him orally. He will have to take a series of swallow tests before they clear a speech/feeding therapist to begin feeding. It's not that Ira isn't interested in food. Tonight, as I ate my powder sugared doughnut, Ira looked on longingly. Definitely my son.

Ira's got lung issues. We used to talk a lot about the issue Ira was born with, congenital diaphragmatic hernia. But that's fixed. Left in the wake of that hernia were two severely underdeveloped lungs. And so Ira has chronic lung disease. In other words, Ira's lungs aren't what they should be so he has trouble breathing on his own. He has a vent to help him breathe. The vent does too much for me to explain here but the settings are high which is not a good thing. It just means that we have a long way to go before Ira is breathing on his own. In the meantime, I keep telling Ira that the ladies dig a man with tubes hanging out of his neck.

This is a question we often get asked. There is no answer to this question. We have no idea. The doctors have no idea. He could need breathing assistance for another year, five years or ten years. Possibly all his life. He could need drugs for his entire life. Physically he may never be where his peers are. And we haven't even started to talk about where Ira is neurologically. Just don't know. And we won't know for some time.

And here's the kicker: I'm okay with that. I'm okay with not knowing. Well, most of the time I'm okay with not knowing. Living one day at a time is not so bad. I'm - we all are - hard-wired to look ahead, to look into the future, to think about tomorrow. But with Ira, I'm learning to live today. I'm learning the essence of the word abide. I'm exploring the depths of the word being. It's not easy but if Ira can live today, so can I.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Yankees, Ira and Grace

Bobby Ross Jr. writes for the Christian Chronicle, a small journal dedicated to a young denomination called the Churches of Christ. Ross Jr. recently wrote an article called, "More Reflections on Faith and Baseball."

Years ago, a wise old journalist gave me this piece of advice: You can’t expect to hit a home run with every story. Sometimes, you’ve got to settle for a double or even a solid single.

With that in mind, I’m going to take a few swings and see what happens:

-- Swing one: I asked Mike Cope, an avid baseball fan, blogger and minister of the Highland Street church in Abilene, Texas, if a person can be both a Christian and a fan of the Evil Empire (a.k.a. the New York Yankees).

Here’s Cope’s response:

While everything in me says that it's impossible to be both a Christian and an Evil Empire fan, my theology of grace insists that it is.

For one thing, I, too, was deceived when I was young. I attended a Yankees/Cardinals World Series in 1964 and cheered for the Yankees. I lived in Missouri and would soon become a lifelong, die-hard Cardinal fan (not quite part of the Terry Rush lunatic fringe -- but a fan nevertheless), but at the time I had just turned eight and was devoted to Mickey Mantle.

And for another thing, I've spent a lot of time in prayer for Ira Hays, whose parents, Joe and Laura, recently planted a church in Brooklyn. I continue to hear that Ira, who's been battling for his life since he was born April 21, 2005, is a Yankees fan. So I've tried despising them less on Ira's account.

Having said all that, I'm tired of the payroll that the country's largest city offers (fueled by its huge television market) buying them the best team money can get. Other teams have to do it by drafting, farm teams, and coaching.

What Mike doesn't realize is that our win against Cleveland on Wednesday night was due to our farm boys, Wang and Cano. In fact, we are relying heavily on our farm system at the moment as our big money makers are hurt. And guess what? We're still in first place! And are you trying to tell me Torre doesn't coach? That's heresy around these parts!

I can't wait for Ira to get drafted by the Yanks in 2025. Will all these folks still hate the Yankees then?


Monday, June 12, 2006

Mentos + Diet Coke = WOW!

Am I the last person on planet earth to see the wild Mentos + Diet Coke videos? I feel like it. My older sister told me about it this past weekend and when my sister is telling me about cool, new web stuff, I know I'm late coming to the game. For those of you who are late-comers too, enjoy this video. (By the way, there are tons of these Mentos+Diet Coke videos out there. Like this and this and this. Oh yeah, there's the extreme version here.) It will blow your mind to see what happens when you drop Mentos into a two liter of Diet Coke.

So, is it a physical reaction or a chemical reaction? Geeks all across the globe are duking it out over this one, folks. Stay tuned...


Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Best 5th Grade Class Around!

Brian (you might remember that he took me to a Yankees game not long ago) is a 5th grade teacher. In telling his class about his family's experience in the NICU, he told them about Ira. His 5th grade class has followed Ira's story this entire school year. The kids wanted to order wristbands and in the words of Brian, "they are honored to be part of the club and they wear their Ira bracelets proudly around their school."

To Brian - ahem, I mean, Mr. O'Conner - and the 5th grade class from Westchester County, New York I say thank you for being so supportive. My family is fortunate to have you guys on our side. Ira is blessed to have you reaching out with your hands offering your love and compassion. You're the best!


Thursday, June 08, 2006

soccer? or futbol? or do you care?

As you know by now, I grew up in a small west Texas town. We didn't have soccer. And so I grew up not appreciating the game one bit. In college, one of my friends was a serious soccer player. But he kept that part of his life separate from me and our buddies because he knew we had no love for it.

Sure, the 1999 US Women's team caught my attention - and not just because Chastain ripped off her shirt - but because of the names and what they were able to do as a team. But that lasted about 15 minutes.

This weekend, the 2006 Men's World Cup will kick off. And for the first time ever, I'm intrigued. I'm interested because the US team is supposed to be the best the US has produced in quite some time. From what I understand we're ranked in the top 10 in some polls and even in the top 5 in others. But here's the kicker, we're not even supposed to make it out of our group. Czech Republic and Italy are supposed to advance leaving us and Ghana empty handed.

So when the US goes up against the Czech Republic on June 12 and when Brazil (the favorites) faces Croatia on June 13, I'll be watching with millions of others.

Will you be watching? Who do you think will win? Do you care? The phone lines are now open...


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Who's In and Who's Out?

Why do we itch to define who is in and who is out?

I have a friend who claims that in order to be an authentic New York City resident one had to live in NYC during the 9/11 tragedy. Then and only then, according to my friend, can you regard yourself a true city dweller. He holds it as the trump card over those of us who didn’t actually live here during that time as if to proclaim some sort of superiority. Those of us who are married do it to those in dating relationships – “You guys don’t really know self-sacrifice.” Those of us who are parents do it to those who aren’t – “If you think life is hard now, wait till you have kids.” or “There is no experience on earth that is as mystical and spiritual as having kids.” Those of us with special needs children look at other parents with an air of contempt as if to say, “You’ve got no idea how good you have it.” Underlying these stilted statements is an inherent belief that I’m in and you’re out; that I know and you don’t know; that I get it and you don’t get it. There is, of course, some truth to these systemic separations but we go too far in drawing lines, in creating walls, in fencing in and fencing out.

This desire to define inclusion and exclusion is most often seen and felt in religious circles. In the name of orthodoxy and in fear of not getting it right we quickly rattle off a list of criteria one needs to meet in order to be included. I grew up in a Christian tradition where the list was very rigid and ordered. If one adhered to the order, great, Welcome! However, if one had an experience outside the norm then it was understood that the experience was not authentic.

These days, I’m not so interested in what separates us. I’m not so interested in the differences. I’m not so interested in probing definitions so that we can parse out our paths of discrepancies. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too much death over the past year that I want to look for what unifies us. Maybe it’s because I’m convicted every morning I wake to Ira that I want to talk about what common ground we stand on rather than how far apart we are. Maybe it’s because as I think about, pray to and come to know God I see in God a radical inclusion that far surpasses what I can imagine.


Monday, June 05, 2006

um, yeah, cancel that too

Part of our new norm is that we can't get away. I was to officiate my cousin's wedding this past January. Sophia and I had our tickets and were ready to fly to D/FW. However, Ira went into the hospital and a week before my cousin's wedding, I called with the news that I had to cancel. He was more than gracious and completely understanding but I still regret not getting to be a part of his wedding day.

Laura and I were to have a small part at the Pepperdine Lectures this past May. We were going to co-teach a class on what it means to do ministry in the midst of crisis. It just so happened that our crisis kept us from going to Malibu. Two weeks before the lectures, I called the guy who oversees the lecturs and cancelled. Again, graciousness poured forth but we were bummed about not getting to go to Malibu and enjoying the beauty there.

I was to attend the 2006 Engle Institute of Preaching at Princeton Seminary, my alma mater. I was looking forward to spending time with peers in the same profession as I, sitting at the feet of great professors and refining my preaching skills. But alas, there's no way I can leave Laura with both kids. It's just too much. And so I gave up my spot in the Institute. And of course, they were gracious in dealing with me but I'm bummed about the missed opportunity to learn.

I'm not attempting to garner more sympathy from you - you've doled it out in large quantities and we're grateful for your care. And I'm aware (I'm trying to be aware) that this won't last forever; that Ira won't be in such a state forever; that someday we'll be able to travel together. For now, I just wanted to share the kind of life we are settling into and in sharing, I'm hoping to be more accepting of it.

Lord, help me abide in this moment.