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?

They Need Your Money and/or Your Time!

Folks these people/organizations need your time and money! Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be a part of these great things. You’ve probably seen me post about this stuff on Facebook. But just in case you haven’t let me make a quick run down on some of the great stuff going on downtown that you should be a part of this Summer.

Compassion Vancouver

Compassion Vancouver is a one day health care event that happens here in downtown Vancouver at Washington Elementary. They focus on providing free medical, dental, vision, and chiropractic medical services as well as offering a great lunch, a social service fair that will connect you up with all sorts of opportunities all across the ‘Couve, a free childcare program so that while you’re getting your teeth worked on you’ll know your kids are safe, and all sorts of other nuts and bolts they toss in as well (dog/cat care, bike repair, etc.) If you want to support CV financially I suggest you do it here: and if you want to volunteer you can do it here: and they need help with both!

Coop Du Jour Tour

The Coop Du Jour Tour is an awesome neighborhood event that you shouldn’t miss. It’s a time where any person in the downtown neighborhoods that has chickens can choose to open up their backyard to show off their coops and chicks. It’s more than about chickens though. It’s one of those incredibly rare moments these days where you get to meet and converse with neighbors and new friends in your backyard. These moments just don’t happen any more! So if you live downtown and have a chicken coop you should (quickly) think about putting yourself on the chicken map by contacting them via their facebook account. If you simply want to walk/bike/drive the tour on July 14th then you can pick up a map for $15 a family or $5 a person at Mint Tea, Neighbors Market, or the Vancouver Food Co-op. Oh, and all the proceeds go toward the Hough Foundation and to support our family.

Kiggins Fundraiser for Ryan Woods (foundation)

On July 17th at Vancouver’s historic Kiggins Theater there will be the second annual Ryan Woods (inspired) fundraiser. I say “annual” because it’s going to now happen every year regardless of my health, regardless of whether I beat cancer or die from it this fundraiser will continue under its own 501c3 to continue to bless the downtown community. It will happen every year and will continue our dream of a transformed downtown life that is from the ground up (people-centric). You should come not only because it’s going to be amazingly fun (they’ve got some amazing music lined up and Kiggins is an awesome venue these days) but also because there will be a killer silent auction, and it’s the beginning of something special I think that is much much bigger than me…and I really like that. Oh, they’ve also created a great raffle that has prizes such as two first class round trip tickets with Delta among other great things. You can check out the prizes here: and you can purchase tickets at Mon Ami Cafe, Yogurt Time, and Vancouver Pizza Co..

The Mighty Bowl

Finally I’ve got some good friends that have opened up the first new modern foodcart in Vancouver.* Not only is their food incredible–rice and bean bowls/wraps and fresh fruit smoothies, but they’ve done things right: they have recycling available at the cart, they use as much local food as possible (and most of it is), and they’re local to the Nth degree from the names of their drinks (named after neighborhoods) to the uniforms (local t-shirts). You can read about them from The Columbian here: The Mighty Bowl needs your support, you’ve got to go eat their food, and tell your friends about ’em. To cooperate with Vancouver’s strange rules they’ve got to be mobile and in a different spot on regular occasions–so follow them on Twitter, or keep track on Facebook, or keep up via their website. Oh, and did I mention that it’s incredibly cheap? Yeah, nothing costs more than just a few bucks–I think nothings more than $7. Incredible.


* I say “modern” and “new” because there are some foodcarts that have been around for years and years that were grandfathered into the state/city/counties new rules and regulations for foodcarts. Since those new rules and regulations have been in place absolutely no foodcarts have been able to do things correctly in order to not be shut down by the city. The MB has worked hard to do things right and to (hopefully) pave a path for a continued movement.