The Fourth Act

I’m totally over this whole cancer thing. I mean, seriously–it’s so 2011 ya know? I miss seeing my downtown crew, the group of people that never make it into a schedule because you happen to run into them whenever you’re around town. The problem is that I’m never around town anymore. Things in my body have changed so drastically over the last few days, weeks, and months that my presence in my downtown neighborhoods has dwindled to nothing…and it’s killing me (not literally folks…at least I don’t think so!). I absolutely hate it for more than just a few reasons. But…it’s just a part of the story that I can’t seem to get away from these days.

Speaking of an inescapable story, let me quickly give you a summary as to where my body is right now. Headaches have become normal. We don’t know what is causing them, but I tend to wake up with a throbbing type of headache that comes and goes throughout the day. It’s manageable, it’s not debilitating, but it’s there.* Then there are those times where the headaches get out of control. They (the out of control ones) seem to come about every 1.5 to 2 weeks and they always draw me back to the ER (they always seem to happen on the weekends too!). The problem is that when the headaches get too bad they induce vomiting which keeps me from being able to effectively manage the pain on my own. Anyway, so weekend trips to the hospital have sadly become routine around here as have the debilitating headaches. Not the routine we’ve been hoping for!

Simultaneously my ability to walk is getting worse and worse as my right leg has become less functional. This has a greater impact than I can write about here; it deserves a whole blog unto itself. Living in a three story house and being a guy who hates to sit still in his own home this has caused not only great identity crisis but also is creating more physical pain as I refuse to slow down my life in accordance to what my body is telling me I’m able to do. My body is screaming at me to slow down, but my heart/mind/spirit/arrogance is refusing. So what ends up happening is that I crash at different moments into a puddle of exhaustion and my wife is left picking up the pieces.** Showering is exhausting, tucking my kids into bed wears me out, standing while doing the dishes leaves me sweating, essentially anything that defines home life wears me out and leaves me huffing and puffing. Sadly, my favorite pastime: reading, is a freedom that I don’t have as much anymore due to my medically induced narcolepsy! Anytime I sit down to read I end up falling asleep! it drives me absolutely crazy and is one more thing that I can no longer do!

Anyway, this blog was not intended to be a whining blog…though I think whining occasionally is perfectly OK. My intention, however, was to say some of that simply because I want you all to know where I am at right now. MRI results will be in this week and we’ll find out if the headaches are due to tumor growth or something else. The results will give us one more small piece to the puzzle, but as I think I’ve shared before, MRI results only mean so much. We’ve come to rely less on these results because they can be so fleeting in their significance. Due to the volatile state of my type of tumor, what a scan says today could be completely opposite of what it says in four weeks! Regardless, I’ve said enough concerning where things are at. Due to some of the above factors (and a few others I haven’t written about here) my life is once again filled with sick moments, regular doctors visits, and now new visits with specialists of all sorts and sizes. Or, in other words, my life has not created enough time for me to be with you or to have quality time with my wife as I would prefer.

My fear and greatest burden right now is missing out. I’m missing out on all the fun. I’m missing out ’cause I’m just too tired to participate fully. I’m missing out ’cause I’m codependent with transportation. I’m missing out ’cause I don’t have time due to all my doctor’s appointments. I’m missing out ’cause I’m sick as a dog. I’m missing out and I don’t like it. But it is, weather I like it or not, a part of my story right now. It just is. It’s that part in the middle of the movie that’s not very good, the part that you endure ’cause you’re hoping (assuming?) that it is building up to some kind of more interesting and fun-to-watch part of the movie that should be following it. It’s not a lull but a building crescendo right? Please tell me I’m crescendo-ing right now ’cause otherwise this is just plain ol’ boring and I’m kind of done with this scene.

If Act One of my movie was all about discovery and initial recovery; Act Two was about trying to figure out what life looks like as the cancer boy; Act Three was the lull of digression (what this blog has been about); at some point Act Four must begin and it should be an act marked by life giving activity, by healing, by community, and by refreshment. Right? What will act four be?

The hope, then, is that this movie is shelved in the feelgood section and not in the drama or tragedy section of the stockroom. Right?

How about this: Lets just go out there and make a good movie okay?


* I know there’s lots of good ideas for what to do to get rid of these or to manage these–so please know that we are and have been exploring options. I appreciate your concern and your creativity in sharing different ways of treating this stuff, but I really do have an amazing support structure around me that is always pursuing new ideas and options. So don’t worry!


** Another whole blog needs to be written about my wife’s role in all of this! Shesh, I’m not sure who has it worse to be honest. She does so much and receives so little praise or recognition for what she’s constantly having to give up. She is amazing-a thousand times over amazing- and she makes so much of my life possible through her hard work and constant sacrifice.


Chalk the Walk: Video Blog 8-22-12

Sorry for the poor quality of the video, but what’s being captured in it is absolutely beautiful. After a shooting rocked the downtown Vancouver Hough neighborhood a group of people decided to come together and ‘chalk the walk’ with messages of hope, life, and love in order to reclaim those streets. (I wrote about this on an earlier blog post)

It was a lot of fun being there–it just felt…hmm…it just felt right.


Arnada Community Meal: Video Blog

This is a quick snapshot of our weekly Arnada Community Meal that we host here at the Arnada House. It’s something that we’ve done here at the house nearly every week for about a year and a half. Pardon my shaky hands in this video…it can’t really be helped. And pardon my high pitched voice…turns out this is what I always sound like and nobody’s every really told me. And finally, pardon my apologies…people who apologize too much can be tedious to be around. Sorry.


First Responders…with a dash of hope

Sometimes terrible things happen and there’s absolutely no reason why. Sometimes there are reasons. And sometimes it just doesn’t matter. I don’t know much about this story, I’ve been watching from a distance and am unfamiliar with many of the details, and…well, I’m not sure it matters. Our local newspaper, The Columbian, writes about it here: and here

Essentially my friends had a shooting happen not only in their neighborhood but in their front yard. What was so amazing, what was so beautiful was that my friend is a firefighter. So as the person to call the police and as the first person to make it to victim who had been shot six times he was fully prepared to care for this boy in ways that you or I would not have been. Even further, however, my friends family (including his wife and boys) are people who have spent the last many years learning to respond with love, grace, and compassion to anyone and everyone who comes their way. So not only was he equipped to deal with the physical stuff (and it looks like the young man is going to survive!) but their family has been an overwhelmingly amazing ‘first responder’ to the family and neighborhood’s needs as well. From coordinating meals for the victim’s family for a month to now coordinating a neighborhood-wide effort to honor the family through inviting a communal voice of hope with chalk (I’ll explain in a moment) they are finding ways to be responders with hope.

Once again, The Columbian writes about it here:

So here is what I’m getting to. If you live in Vancouver or Portland, I want to invite you on August 21st from 10:00-1:00 to join the Hough neighborhood to “Chalk the Walk“. Chalking the walk is a Vancouver tradition (and a very cool one at that) but this year at 1114 W 21st, Vancouver, WA 98660 it’s going to be a tradition marked with a deeper message when neighbors and friends counter the senseless violence that happened with messages of hope, life, and togetherness. Want to join?

Here’s the thing. I’m tempted to end this blog by saying something like “It’s not about Nate and Jasmine and how they’ve responded. It’s bigger than them. It’s about the neighborhood, it’s about you, its about…” but you know what? You know what the reality is? The reality is that we have so much to learn from this family, from Nate, Jas, and their boys (yes, their boys seem to always be a integral part in leading the charge as well!). If it were not for their posture of responsiveness to their neighbors none of us would be entered into this story. If it were not for their families core of love, grace, and compassion none of us would be invited to be ‘second responders’, if it were not for them this story would look very differently. So, you know what?, while this blog would probably feel better if I expanded it here at the end to include all of us as the ‘moral of the story participants’ the reality is that we’ve got to be learners here! We’ve got to learn from the Cook fam’ how to be first responders with a little dash of hope.

While we cannot (and should not…and I WILL NOT) try to pretend like any form of response at this point will dull the pain and terribleness of the situation–our hope, as always, is that God can transform shit into something beautiful. That’s what he does when we allow him to enter into our story. He doesn’t always get rid of the messiness (oh how I wish he would) but he is willing to enter into our narrative and do something magically beautiful. None of us know where or how this story is going to end, but because of this families willingness to enter into the fray we all are being invited to bring a candle of light into the bleak narrative in hopes that light might one day shine through it.

So will you join with us on August 21st from 10-1 at 1114 W 21st, Vancouver, WA 98660 as a second responder of hope?

Blessed to be a witness

Oh where do I start? I am blessed. I don’t always feel that way, but today I do, today I feel overwhelmingly blessed.

I was blessed to be invited to fly to Rochester, MI for the Streaming Conference at Rochester College. It was an amazing few days where Jess and I were bombarded with incredible information from renowned scholars who invited all of us attending to love more radically through the simplicity of hospitality. I was blessed to see many old friends and to meet many new faces. I was blessed to be able to share some of my own story about living in awareness of my own bodies decay, about its clear fragility, and about the implications these realities have with regard to hospitality and community. It was an amazing few days and I feel blessed to be a part.

I was blessed to travel with my partner in life. Not only did she do all the heavy lifting, but she’s also great to cuddle with on a cramped airplane. There’s no better person to sit in an airport with than Jess.

I was blessed to come home to my beautiful children who were eager to be with us on this, their first day of Summer vacation. While Jones was upset that he wasn’t allowed to stay in his jammies all day and build Lego’s, he did overcome quite well–even ‘allowing’ us to eat dinner at Edgefield.

But more than anything today I am sure that I am overwhelmingly blessed to be a part of the downtown Vancouver community. There’s no way to define what this community is nor what it is becoming…yet. There’s no way to capture who exactly it is and what the boundaries clearly are. The lines are all blurry, the impetus for togetherness is not easily understood. But there is movement happening–there is A movement happening.

Today we were surprised by forty of our downtown friends by a mural that they had been working on for nearly three weeks with the utmost secrecy. They painted until nearly 1am the last two or three nights in order to finish in time to share it with us today. It is amazing. I think it’s supposed to be a tribute to our family, but what they’ve really done is they’ve captured our heart, our passion, and our dreams of Vancouver. The paint on the wall partially captures who we are, what we love, and what we want to be all about–but I think it’s the actual event itself that truly brings me to tears. Friends from every nook of our downtown life came together in one big communal mess to work in partnership in order bring beauty to our streets and to bless someone they love. Does it get much better than that? Bringing art to our neighborhood? Blessing someone they care for? Developing new friendships? Creating new partnerships? Engaging in subversive acts of beauty? I mean, it seriously doesn’t get much better than this now does it?! Oh yeah, and did I mention that the design itself is hugely meaningful too? Yeah, there is that part too now isn’t there! The image is perfect (though as of yet incomplete I’m told) as it captures some of the iconic downtown Vancouver buildings (including our home!)–and yet, as you can tell it is not the buildings that is bringing life. No, for the Grassroots Conspiracy movement it’s not about buildings but about what they represent. Life is emerging all around and throughout those buildings–in the image those buildings are being covered by life and light in the same way that I believe/dream/hope that our downtown movement sees life and light envelope all that is ‘us’.

…and I love being able to say (as I’ve said a few times over the last year or two)…it’s happening. Life, light, movement, hope, community, meaning it’s happening. And I’ll be pissed if I don’t get to stick around long enough to see even greater things than this emerge.

I am so so blessed.