Tag Archives: Laughter

Dear Me,

Dear Eric (circa 1988),

So if I have this right you are almost 16 and things are really weird for you. Sorry to tell you this, but that won’t change for a while. You will continue to try as hard as you can to fit in and be cool and do everything perfectly right and you will fail and in the end it won’t matter. In your late 20’s you will finally realize that your identity has nothing to do with you are, but rather Whose you are. More on that later.

Your spiked hair that you dyed blue was gnarly, and, like, totally awesome and you rocked your stone-washed jeans and the untied high-top Converse shoes. What I mean is that you rocked them as much as any 15 year old teenager ever could which means not so much. As badly as you want a pair of parachute pants you will never get them. That’s OK, because in a few years they will become the punchline to lots of jokes about fashion from the 1980’s along with the mullet and wearing the collar up on your polo shirt. I know you’re shocked, but it’s true! (P.S. If you could keep your favorite pair of Levi’s from your senior year that would be great. This thing called eBay comes along in the future and people pay thousands of dollars for retro jeans.)

Right now I know that you are excited and completely terrified at the same time about the changes that are taking place in your life. Your parents just enrolled you into a Christian high school for your sophomore year and it will be the first time in your life that you have ever attended a traditional school classroom. You are intimidated by the thought of meeting new kids and wonder if you will be able to keep up with your classmates. Don’t worry. You will. At least in the subjects you like. The subjects you don’t like you don’t actually put forth any effort and simply accept the minimum grade. It’s not your best attribute and honestly, you are much smarter than that and should try hard regardless of your interest.

In spite of the fears you have going into this new school environment you are also excited. Mostly about playing football and the opportunity to be around girls. Focus on the football. It’s a lot of fun and you love it. Girls? Not so much. Oh, there will be lots of girls you like and “dates” and many awkward moments that you will experience. You aren’t going to listen to me, but your teenage years will be significantly less complicated if you didn’t pour so much thought and energy into girls. Trust me. Some of them will break the little boy heart that is hiding behind your false veneer of teenage confidence.

While I’m talking about girls and school, I should probably mention something. You need to be a whole lot nicer to your sophomore English teacher. Sure, it’s funny playing a different prank on her every day; moving her bookcases, switching her desk around, and bringing a squirt gun to class with you, but I have some shocking news for you. She remembers those things and in a few years you will meet, fall in love with, and marry her little sister. Easy. Just breathe. It’s really great and you will love it.

You are about to make a lot of friends. To quote Bill and Ted, “Be excellent to each other!” Some of your friends you will keep in contact with some 25 years later. And some of them you will lose touch with in just a few years. You might be surprised to know which ones are still a part of your life today, but I’ll leave that part a surprise. One hint though. Some of them have children and their kids and your kids become great friends. Yep. Really weird.

Kids? Oh yeah. You will have three of them. You and your wife both love kids a lot and you will make great parents. Mostly, to be honest, your kids survive more because of God’s grace than the fact that either of you really know what you are doing, but you both fake it well. Your children will become one of the most sanctifying effects on your life. You need to know what that word means and should look it up. Unfortunately you won’t and it will be many, many years before you fully comprehend it.

One of the main reasons for me writing this is to talk about something that will become the most important thing to you some day. At age 15 you are entering into a school with some really crazy rules about what is right and wrong. Your parents agree with them. But teenagers have an incredible aptitude to see through hypocrisy and lies and this will cause you to question everything. In time, you and mom and dad will realize how wrong all that was, but that won’t happen until years from now. Until then, keep asking questions. Eventually, they will help you become who God wants you to be.

I’m sorry to tell you that this is only the beginning of a journey that will take ten years to reach its end. I wish I could tell you to take a different path or to not make some of the decisions that you will soon make, but I can’t do that. Here’s the straight truth. You are going to do your very best to follow the rules that your parents, your school, and your church have placed in front of you. You will maintain an image for all but your closest friends of being a “good Christian” when deep inside you know how utterly wretched you are. You will try and try and try again to live up to this standard that is held up for you to achieve. Years from now you will fail in the worst of ways and this time you won’t even try any more. This time you will give up completely and you will deny that God even exists. It’s OK. Hard to believe, but this is all good news. Eventually you will stare death in the face and want to let go of everything. At that moment God is going to step in. This is not the God you have ever heard about before. This God is full of love and mercy and grace. You don’t understand at all what those words mean yet, but He will shower all of these upon you. When He does, you will learn that there is not one rule or requirement that you ever have to keep. You will finally learn about the complete sufficiency of Jesus Christ’s death for you and that there is not one thing that you can add to what He has already done. You will become overwhelmed by His grace and will discover true peace and joy.

I wish in some ways it would come quicker for you, but I know this is exactly the path you must walk. It won’t be easy, but in the end it will be worth every step you take.

Every blessing,

The older you.

P.S. Don’t buy the Dodge Neon or the Nissan Sentra. Trust me.

Thanks to Emily at ChattingTheSky.Com for the writing prompt on this post. She just published a book called, Graceful. Honestly, I didn’t plan on writing this until the last minute. The more I wrote the more I realized what a mess my teenage years were and how much I need to talk to my kids about. This is a good thing. 

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By The Numbers — A Retrospective At Twenty Years

8/1/1992 2:00 PM — I was 19 and you were 21. Two “I do’s” we said.

One car, one apartment, 3 jobs and uncountable overtime hours for eleven months.

7/1993 — One four-bedroom house seemed very empty with four appliances, one bed, one piano, no chairs, no table, and no couch, but it was ours. Auctions, kindness of friends and family, and more overtime slowly added six chairs, one dining room table, two couches, and one Christmas tree for our first holiday. Three friends playing midnight basketball until you got home from work at 1 AM. Suppers at 2 AM consisting of pasta eaten out of one large bowl, with two forks, sitting on a couch watching reruns until 3 AM.

Nine months of anticipation spent painting eight white clouds on four blue walls. Stern warning from a doctor for being on a ladder at six months pregnant when we roofed the house, followed by one moment of hilarity when you at eight months pregnant got stuck in the closet while painting. Water broke 11 days early and 8 hours later we held a bald baby named Alexander John on 9/30/1994.

One new job, two (or three, or four) more cars, decorating a needed second bedroom, one trip to Colorado with an 18 month old at the start of nine more months of waiting. “Look at all that hair!“, the nurse said and after 4 hours of labor we held Caleb Bradley on 11/21/96.

Five years of wedded bliss followed by eighteen months of a marriage on the rocks. One man running in selfish pride, one woman barely holding on, and one God who graciously pursued both.  Countless sleepless nights, unbelieveable forgiveness, and God’s grace and mercy immeasurable. One re-commitment, our last nine months of waiting, our one ultrasound to “know for sure”, and after 2 hours of labor Hannah Caryn was welcomed by two parents and two brothers on 6/24/99 to complete this family of five.  Eight years we had waited to use the name, Caryn — our waitress’s name the night we got engaged.

Over the years were four trips to Kentucky, three trips to Kansas, and two trips to Arkansas all to see family. Four funerals of grandparents, two funerals of nephews, and the marriages of four siblings and five nieces and nephews. More health scares from parents than can be counted with stents, tests, one open-heart procedure, one stroke, and two Flight for Life helicopter rides.

Ten vehicles, three mowers, three lawn trimmers, and two snow-blowers. One new roof, one new furnace, three new washers, and two new dryers. A flooded basement three or four times, twenty new windows, and two new hardwood floors. Two crab-apple trees taken down replaced in time with three cherry trees and two peach trees. One strawberry patch planted in excitement. One strawberry patch removed in frustration three years later. One vegetable garden gone to be replaced a few years later with two.

One employer for you at one location for twenty-one years. Five employers for me scattered in four different cities until we found one right in our backyard. One business start-up now 10 years old. One 1,200 square foot shop built in 2004. One day you were welcomed home to the sight of three kids ages 10, 8, and 5 on the roof of the shop “helping” me.

Sixty visits from the Tooth Fairy, two children in for minor surgery, and one child with asthma. Three sets of training wheels, one bike ridden into a parked truck, and one bike chasing after deer. Twenty-eight different seasons of soccer (12 championships), five seasons of basketball, five seasons of football (1 championship), and seventeen seasons of baseball (three championships). Three Betta fish raised were our only pets. Unless we count the Monarch caterpillars raised into butterflies which numbered well over four hundred.

Six broken bones that have been confirmed — four for me, one for you, and one for one of the kids. Surprisingly, not the kid we would have guessed. Twenty-six combined years of homeschooling, four years of public high school, and two handsome boys attending three homecomings and one prom. One night at a Milwaukee Bucks game watching our three sing the National Anthem with a group of others. One Green Bay Packers mini-camp, numerous Milwaukee Brewers games, and county, state, and children’s fairs. Five trips to Bay Beach to ride the ten cent rides, one son stopping himself in fear halfway down the three-story tall slide, one dad trying to stop himself on the same slide to help his son get down. Two piano teachers, three piano players and one beautiful young lady in voice lessons. Two new drivers, one son preparing to vote for his first time, and dozens of college advertisements.

It’s hard to add it all together. To think and remember the love and how it’s changed from what it once was to what it is now. That every moment that can be counted has brought us to here and shaped and made us who we are. The arguments that we pushed through, the stubborn pride of “being right”, and the times we set aside our rights for the other. The moments of painful serious conversation when we questioned each other if we would be able to continue together on the path we had started. When love was lost, we chose to learn to love again because we believed it was right and we had come too far to throw it away.  Now twenty years in we look forward to tomorrows — regardless of what they may bring — as we remember our yesterdays that have brought us this far. And we rest in the promises of One who has kept us and guarantees that all things will work for good.

Promising to continue to count the memories together . . . I love you.

8/1/1992 ~ 8/1/2012

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A Time To Laugh

On May 9, the US Food and Drug Administration voted to approve the RAD drug tofacitinib, otherwise known as a JAK’s inhibitor. This was huge news in the rheumatoid community and it’s approval was reported by numerous news organizations. Unfortunately, most of these articles show how uninformed the general public is about Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease. This proves to patients with RAD and to those who support them in their fight how much work we have yet in front of us to raise the level of awareness. You can read more on Kelly’s excellent write-up.

Though there is something discouraging about this lack of knowledge it doesn’t come without us being able to laugh about it. Specifically this article by Doctor Robin Wulffson brought the RAD community much to be upset about, but also much to laugh about. Dr. Wullffson believes that the best way to treat RAD is by taking your standard over the counter aspirin. Trust me. That is laughable. However, the point the community found to be very entertaining was the typographical error that was soon corrected, but not before many of us saw it for ourselves. The good doctor referred to rheumatoid arthritis as “rheumatoid uterus“. Interesting. Is it contagious? What are it’s symptoms? How does it present itself? And does this mean that men cannot ever be diagnosed with it?

In light of this faux pas, we took upon ourselves to make a little fun of the doctor and tried to come up with other rheumatoid diseases and how they affected the patients or those around them. Ecclesiastes 3:4 “A time to weep and a time to laugh . . . ” so please laugh with us and feel free to contribute your own suggestions in the comments.

Rheumatoid Insanity – When your bones and joints are going crazy and people tell you, “But you don’t look sick.”

Rheumatoid Psychosis – A close cousin to rheumatoid insanity evidenced when the patient thinks they may be going crazy due to lack of understanding from their family, friends, or medical personnel.

Rheumatoid Deafness – An unusual illness that causes doctors not to be able to hear what their patients are saying.

Rheumatoid Seizures – An uncontrollable thrashing of ones hands and arms when someone tells a person with RAD that a diet change would cure them. Usually manifested by the intentional accidental slapping or hitting of the person who made the suggestion.

Rheumatoid Dyslexia – When someone reads, “RAD is an invisible disease.” and they think they read, “RAD is an imaginary disease.”

Rheumatoid Testicularitis – This happens when the patient with RAD has the courage and inner fortitude to advocate for themselves.

Thanks to those in the Twitter #rheum community who helped me with these ideas, Tracy, Kelly, Dana, Kate, Bob, and Heather. Keep laughing!

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