Where to begin…

It has been one month since 9/3/14; on that Wednesday I had an Ischemic Stoke.

When my wife said I was slurring my speech and my face looked a little slack on one side, I ignored the early warning signs.  I just said, “Well, we’ll sleep on it and see about it in the morning.”  I got up and went to work, my gross motor skills working more or less and got work about 45 minutes later.

But when I walked in to my work station and a fellow employee said “Hello,” and then, “What’s wrong?”  I figured something must be amiss.  I still had the slurred speech when I tried to talk and I had no fine motor skills on my left side… I couldn’t hold a pen to write anything but chicken-scratch and my ability to even log in to my work screen was weak.

The office then had me sit in a low chair and they called the paramedics.  Who hooked me up to a blood pressure cuff, and immediately hauled me off to Kaiser – Anaheim (La Palma) and their emergency room / Stroke victim ward.  Four days there of IV’s and insulin shots and a series of tests.

A CAT Scan, MIR, etc. determined that a combination of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes/high blood sugars, and stress resulted in a small (temporary) blood clot that caused the ischemic stroke.  They let me go home on Sunday the 8th of September.  I was to follow-up with my private doctor within five days.  (Joke’s on them – I don’t have a private doctor!)

When going to get the three prescriptions filled, our pharmacist mentioned a doctor in the same building who saw patients at a super reasonable price of $50.00 a visit for cash-only patients – and with no medical insurance – I qualified!   To see him as soon as possible, we opted for his ‘no appt. – wait til there’s an opening – times of Thursday from 4pm to 6pm.  After a 90-minute plus wait, my turn.  (I’m no expert on doctors but I think I lucked into one who is qualified in stroke treatment.)

After a 20-minute visit (no rushing, lots of questions, and a few basic office tests) he concurred I had suffered a stroke, and prescribed a couple of alternate meds from what Kaiser had prescribed, and some follow-up tests.  Now, almost a month later, I haven’t had the tests done that he requested, nor the blood work, or the other referred to people he suggested I visit.  Again, cash only, no insurance, and to see any of the people he recommended (occupational therapist, speech therapist, physical therapist, etc.) required the one thing in short supply – money.

The following week it was off to social services.  Three hours of waiting to fill out some forms and then wait some more – before seeing someone who said I don’t qualify for any benefits the month of September because I received a paycheck on the 5th of the month – I can reapply in October.  Forms completed online, forms completed in person, waiting on hold, waiting in line, waiting… waiting… oh, hey, they called my name!  You need this other proof of ID before we can proceed… home do I make it through to the end of the month?

This week it was Social Security Administration.  There it was another waiting game and fill out these forms and let’s see…yes, you will qualify for a couple of programs – but  one will not kick in until January 2015 (three months away) and the actual check would be paid in February – and the other (SSDI) takes three to six months to see if you qualify.  Great.

So, here we are… playing a waiting game for services that I’ve paid into all my working life.  And the tough part is that during this waiting time with absolutely no funds coming in from any source, it has become necessary to give 30-days notice to our landlord.  (We can’t wait simply ‘hoping’ something will come through in time to avoid being evicted.)  And we have to try to plan whom to give the bulk of our furniture and other household goods away to since we cannot afford to store anything.  I am a big fan of the idea of minimalism (my wife is not), so getting rid of most things will be easier on me than on her.

So at almost 62 years of age, I am essentially going to have to depend on others for a few months to survive while waiting to see how much I recover from the stroke.  The doctors have said it will be three to six months or more before they can determine how much fine motor skills I recover and how much coordination and balance I will get back.  They said 100% recovery is “possible” but not realistic.  But I can, with proper treatment, diet, change of lifestyle, etc., expect maybe 90-95% recovery.  Exercise protocols, a diet tailored for reducing blood sugars, high blood pressure, and a lifestyle that reduced as much stress as possible at the primary prescriptions for now.

Starting over at 62 is scary – I can’t depend on doing the things for work that I used to do for living.  But as my masthead tag says, “It’s never too late to become what you were meant to be.”


New Year – New Job – Old Company

Pre-interview:  December 31, 2012.

Job interview – offer review:  January 07, 2013.

Two-weeks notice given:  January 08, 2013.

Start new job:  January 21, 2013.

Yep, the company I previously worked for about five years ago, Specialized Builders Hardware, is bringing me back as purchasing / inside sales and providing compensation that makes it an easy choice to change employers.

I’m going from working nights (9:00pm – 5:00am) with Sundays and Mondays off to a more “normal” schedule of daylight hours (7:30am – 4:30pm) with Saturdays and Sundays off.  Of course, one drawback is I’m going from no commute – I work at the same apartment complex  where I live – to a drive of 27 miles one way.  So part of the compensation needed to be sufficient to cover the added wear-and-tear on the car plus fuel (at today’s fluctuating gas prices).

The ‘industry’ is commercial hardware, and I have been out of it for about three-plus years.  But part of their decision was it was going to be easier and quicker to re-train and bring me up to speed on their unique computer system and parts coding than to train someone from scratch, even if they have industry experience.

I am truly looking forward to making this change and the next 11 days can’t go by fast enough.

I’m A Grandpa!

On Tuesday, December 18th, at 9:33 PM PST, my first grandson was born into this world.

We welcomed Noah Robert Newcom to the family; he weighed 7 pounds, 15 ounces and was 20-1/2 inches long (tall?)

Noah 001 Noah and Grandpa Chuck


In these pictures, Noah is about 15 hours old… I got to hold him while Heather (mother) and Bonnie (grandma) were talking and giving Heather a break.  He slept in my arms for about an hour until the doctor came in and wanted to do a quick check-up.  Can’t wait to start spoiling this boy.


I QUIT! (Bread That Is)

I Quit!  

I put on about eight pounds in the past four days.  The biggest change was the amount of bread I ate in various forms: sandwiches and dinner rolls mostly – ham sandwiches, dinner rolls with the multiple turkey/thanksgiving dinners (we had three this year: one at each of the sister-in-laws (all good, by the way) on Thursday and Friday, and one more at home when my wife, Bonnie, cooked a turkey dinner, along with all the sides, for her parents at our home).

That was the major addition to my eating over those four days – lots of bread.  And I know better… I had lost 25 pounds over the past nine months or so, mostly by limiting the starches and sugars in my diet.  (Note: I’m also a recovering Type II diabetic.)

So it’s time to go back to what was successful in the past.  That means going back to the Primal/Paleo way of eating that worked before; why I got away from it?  Laziness, loss of discipline, loss of focus on the goal of rebuilding a better ‘house’ for the Holy Spirit to travel in.  Harks back to the old Jimmy Buffett phrase from one of his songs, “You treat your body like a temple, I treat mine like a tent.”

What I’m doing with this post is laying out some guidelines for the rest of my life.  A week from today, I’ll be 59 years old.  I have been complimented by many people who hear that fact that I don’t look that “old.”  Old is a very relative concept in today’s world of advances in medicine, nutrition, health and fitness, and technology.  But I tangent —

I’ve already posted on my Facebook page a quick note that I’m quitting bread – in all its various permutations.  No more sandwich bread (plain, toasted, white, whole wheat, etc.), hamburger or hot dog buns, bagels, french baguettes, dinner rolls, etc. so my Facebook friends can help keep me track with this pledge to eat bread no more… and, of course my wife commented, “Uh-oh, here we go again” because she is the one who most has to put up with changes to how I eat and what I consume as it makes it more difficult on her when planning meals.  (Sorry, babe; but if I want to reach the physical goals I’ve set, the diet and exercise must be congruent.)

How, you ask, will I do this?  What will I eat and what will I avoid?

I’m glad you asked.

To start with, these are the things I will be putting on my Avoid List:

Sugar – including soft drinks, fruit juices, most fruits, cakes, cookies, ice cream, candies, and other forms of sugar, like foods containing High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), corn syrup, table sugar, and other hidden sugars.  I will be using Splenda and Stevia as sweeteners during the transition completely away from any form of sugar (this may take a few months).

Starches – here I will severely limit potatoes (exception will be the small dutch potatoes we slather with olive oil and other spices and bake to go with the occasional steak dinner at home – only happens two or three times a month) and rice.  High starch fruits will also be greatly limited; but I realize that with a focus on ‘real’ foods, fruits in their natural form qualify.

Grains – basically the major avoid items… flour and flour products (goodbye burrito, hello burrito bowl), corn and corn products (so long potato chips and crackers), wheat (gluten) in any form – breads, bagels, pasta, crackers, etc.  Cereals, pizza (now that will be tough at first; I do like to pig out on a pizza and salad at Round Table), and other forms of grains.  Others may say otherwise, but I can only go with how my body reacts, and the near-elimination of these things gives me the best results.

Legumes – no more beans (my wife actually likes this one; I tended to produce negative emissions (gas? flatulence? fart? – what don’t you understand?)

Dairy – okay, this one is among the hardest to limit, but while I’ll still use 2% milk to ‘soften’ my coffee when heavy cream isn’t available, I will be getting rid of the blocks of extra-sharp cheddar cheese (sorry, Trader’s Joe) I bought and often turned into a meal by itself (along with half a bag or more of rice cakes and three or four large glasses of iced tea).

Wow, you say!  What’s left to eat?  How will you survive?

I’m glad you asked.

My W.O.E. (Way of Eating – sounds more realistic than diet, doesn’t it?  Besides, diet always sounds like something temporary and as others have pointed out, the first three letters in diet are D-I-E !!!  Here’s what’s on the To Eat List:

Meats – beef, fish, chicken, pork (ham and bacon, especially), lamp chops, turkey (mostly as a turkey burger to be eaten with a fork without any bun), all prepared by grilling, baking, pan-frying…

Eggs – lots and lots of eggs, prepared any style and usually with plenty of butter (No margarine!)  Truthfully, I could eat 3-6 eggs a meal, a couple of times a day – I love eggs.

Veggies – broccoli (steamed), carrots, celery, cucumbers, lettuce(s), onions, peppers, spinach (raw leaf), tomatoes, and even some grilled zucchini.  Most of these foods will be raw, and as you can see, can all be assembled into a terrific large salad meal in itself.  Be careful as to the salad dressing, and we’re still rockin and rollin.

Condiments – butter (unsalted), coconut oil, EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), black pepper, mustard, salsa, hot sauce, Splenda/Stevia (already mentioned), and my one exception to the sugar/HFCS rule – once in a while, some Smucker’s apricot jam – to go with my eggs.

The few other things to eat sparingly will be nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts), and a very limited amount of cheese – like a slice of pepperjack to go the burger I’ll be eating with a bun but with a fork (I said primal, not savage).  I will eat some fruits during the year, but mostly the standard, everyday ones like apples, bananas, grapes, oranges and watermelon.

Beverages and liquids – water (filtered and purified, preferred), tea, both black (iced) and green (hot), and coffee, tempered with a little cream (growing up my dad used to joke I liked a little coffee to go with my milk!).

Add to this mix a planned exercise routine (10-15 minutes a day of body weight movements and kettlebells, 10-15 minutes of yoga-related movements, and a couple of times a week, some basic short sprint repeats (depending on the strength of my right knee recovery), and you have the plan to make a 59-year old body metamorph back to a much younger one.  Diet W.O.E. (way of eating) and exercise – there you have it in a summary.

And in order to have a goal, we must first know from where we are starting, so as embarrassing as it may be, the key stats here are:  at 5’7″ I weigh 173 pounds (even after a full breakfast 2 hours ago) and 39.5 inches as measured around the waist at the navel (relaxed, not tensed or suck in – what would be the point then? — or as friend often jokes, “Why go for a six-pack when you can have a keg?”)  The six-pack is not my goal – a leaner, more functional torso is on the plan.

(PS:  I re-read this a couple of times and kept asking myself, is the last paragraph necessary?  But if I don’t publicize where I start from, how can I (ever so humbly) proclaim where I get to? — so it stays)

~ Chuck

Much Has Happened Today

Today is Monday, November 7, 2011.

I’m writing this post on my netbook this morning, but as the location I’m at has no internet access, it most likely will not get posted until Wednesday afternoon or later.  I had said on both Facebook and Twitter that I’d be offline and without access for a few days, with only my ‘dumb’ cell phone for communications. (OOPS… I left my cell phone in the car when my wife drove off from Banning after dropping me off to help take care of mom for a few days and she was home in Claremont before she found out she still had my phone with her – can you say incommunicado?) 

Much is happening today.  It has been two weeks since my mother’s knee replacement surgery and we have an appointment this afternoon for a follow-up examination and possibly to get the staples taken out. 

The surgery was October 24th on her left knee (she had previous knee replacement on the right knee about eight years ago).  Surgery on a Monday and the following Friday she was transferred to a rehab facility – Cherry Valley Health Care in Banning, CA – which she hates. 

The people, she says, are great… the food and timing of meals, meds, etc. are terrible.  A nearly 84-year old woman who lives alone and is used to her own schedule, having to get up at a certain time in the morning for breakfast, lunch and dinner, an occasional snack, and take the various medications at their convenient times, all on the Center’s idea of a low-salt, low-calorie, diabetic-friendly diet. 

She said if anything ever happened to her again, NO MATTER WHAT, she will not go to any such facility – she’d rather die at home first. I told her that was not an option – and to stop talking about joining her husband. 

That’s the other thing that made this a bad day. 

Two years ago today, November 7, 2009, my father pasted away. He had survived, World War Two, Korea, and a hard life – and had a few heart attacks, was on his second (internal) defibulator, and was having dialysis treatments three times a week. 

He kept telling my mom he was sorry, but didn’t want to keep on living like this – that it wasn’t his idea of living.  But my mom, who loved this man so much, just was not able to let him go.  So he tried to remain positive and go on for her. 

But finally, he had another heart episode the defib unit could not overcome.  They we sitting at dinner one night and he just sort of slumped over and started to slide from the chair.  My mom grabbed him and tried to keep him upright as she was also trying to call 9-1-1. When the paramedics, fire department, etc. arrived, my mom explained there was a ‘do not resuscitate’ order, but in her panic and the emotional distress of the situation, could not find it.  The paramedics explained that without it, they must work to save him. 

After some work at the house, he was then transported to San Gorgonio Hospital, where, after a couple days,  he slipped away around 3:00AM in the morning on November 7th, 2009.  He died with my mom holding his hand and she was able to be at peace with it because of the extra hours she had with him. 

And with the events going on with mom regarding her knee replacement, wanting to get out of the rehab facility, and the turmoil of emotions surrounding the anniversary of dad’s passing, we have not even been able to make a graveside visit and plant a few flowers and a flag at the burial site in Riverside. 

Yes, much has happened today. 

*** add on Tuesday, 11/08/11 *** 

Well, well, well… remember the 2PM appointment to see the surgeon who did the knee replacement?  Funny how things work out. After I wrote the initial post here, I closed out and went to take my mom’s car back to Cherry Valley Health Center so I could take mom the shoes she wanted to wear, her purse, and a small fleece blanket to put over her legs in the medi-transport van that would take her to Redlands for the follow-up appointment.  Her car would not start. 

Oh, it cranked and tried, but it would not turn over and actually start; doubly frustrating because a few hours earlier I had driven it about three miles to the grocery store to pick up a few items to have at home in case the doctor released her from the rehab facility.  But, no, it wasn’t going to start. 

I ended up calling my aunt, who, fortunately, lives in the same home community (Banning Estates), and she quickly drove over to take the things to mom before the medi-transport van left the Center.  Then she volunteered to drive to Redlands with me the doctor’s office (okay, she gave me the keys and I drove her). 

2:20PM appointment, 3:10PM got in to see someone.  First, it was a nurse who said the knee was looking good, and proceeded to remove the 22 staples from her incision.  (A little ‘leakage’ of fluids, a touch of blood quickly wiped away, and a comment to “stop taking the blood thinner!)  Shortly after that the doctor came in, asked to bend the leg back, and was very pleased with the degree of motion… in fact, commenting that he had people much younger and farther along in the recovery process that still couldn’t bend their knee as far or as well.  (Told you, mom’s a tough old bird.) 

With little prompting from mom, and the understanding I would be at her home for the next couple of days, he signed the paperwork releasing her from the rehab care and allowing her to go home.  Yes, she promised, she would continue to do the exercises each day that she had been doing all along and knew from her previous knee replacement on the right leg six years earlier. 

Then it was back to Cherry Valley Health Center, sign all the necessary discharge paperwork, and by 5:45PM she was back home in her own place.  Happy, happy, joy, joy, joy! 

On the way home, in her sister’s car, and since we refused the 5:00PM meal at the rehab site, we ran through Carl’s Jr. for an order of Famous Burger (hold the onion and cheese) and a small order of fries.  You never saw someone so glad to be free of the ‘salt-free, low-carb, diabetic-friendly meal routine they had her on at the Center. 

Tuesday morning. Helped mom get the ‘shower’ chair set up, and with very little added assistance, she took a shower in her own home in her own bathroom, etc. – now a very happy camper.  I fixed her breakfast, and we discussed the things she wanted to do – including calling AAA to have her car towed to a repair facility nearby. 

Home care nurse is supposed to be here by around 11:00AM to do an in-home assessment for safety and ease of use around her home – of course, it’s a quarter-to-1:00PM now and she had called and said she was running late and hoped to be here by 12:30… mom’s gonna lay down for a while until she arrives and then we’ll fix lunch afterwards – assuming she ever gets here.  That’s why I’ve decided to add to this post and update it. < even if I’m not sure when it will get posted on Wednesday > 

We did get the car to the repair shop and hope to hear from them what’s wrong by 2:00PM and how long repairs will take – I’m only here until around 12-noon Wednesday.  

Yes, much has happen today – and the day after – but the bottom line is mom is home, doing good, and full recovery and use of the knee is expected.  See?  Prayers do get answered. 

Forgiveness Is Possible

Forgiveness Is Possible

I tried several ways to get in touch with an ‘old’ friend the last 10 days or so.

I used Facebook.  I tried Linked-In.  I joined his blog site as a member.  I tried to connect by replying to a couple of posts he did on Twitter.

I even tore though my old files attempting to locate my old personal telephone directory, and upon finding it, called his home number (hoping it had not been changed or disconnected or reassigned to another person) and left a voice mail with my name and cell number and prayed he might call back.

From his posts on Twitter, web site and blog, I made comments, asked questions, and joined his blog. (InTheBeginningMinistries.blogspot.com)

I knew that he had gone out of town for a week. Both to a conference, to see family in Indiana, and to visit the Creation Museum in Ky.  But I had hopes he might call or respond via electronic media.

Tonight (10/27/11), he returned my call.

Getting the conversation started was hard.  Neither of us knew exactly where to begin.  I thanked him for calling me back; and he said part of it was due to his being a pastor now.

Bear in mind, among the posts he had done, one was regarding forgiveness.  And I took advantage of that post to let him know I was one seeking forgiveness (and reconciliation, if possible).  So when he called, part of the start to the conversation was that he felt my original apology from several years ago was either not enough or not meant sincerely… and he was struggling to overcome that feeling.

I immediately realized that one of the reasons we had drifted apart was my failure to follow-up and be sure he knew how sorry I was.  I won’t go into the details here, but I definitely did a wrong to him.  It caused him pain both personally and professionally, and probably led to his having to change jobs.

What he had to overcome and look at to forgive me was HUGE.  It wasn’t a small thing that you can then go back and say, “Oh, that’s okay… we’re friends and he’ll get over it.”  No, it was a cause of great discomfort to him (and as a result, probably his family) and caused me to lose my best friend.  The loss of this man’s trust has been an unbelievable blow to me.  (I still haven’t forgiven myself for this.)

A little background…

In the mid-to-late 70’s, I walked away from God.  I had suffered the loss of some close family members, gone through a divorce from my first wife, and was having major financial problems, and I needed something or someone to blame – you know it couldn’t be my fault or the choices and decisions I’d made.  No.  It must be God’s fault my life was turning to excrement.

And in a series of poor decisions, I managed to break and badly damage what had been an amazing friendship since the 8th grade.

Along with these other bad choices, I knew I desperately needed to escape both my situation and my location – so at the age of 26 I joined Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club (you probably know it better as the U.S. Navy).

 Look out San Diego(boot camp),Groton,CT(submarine school), Dam Neck, VA (A and C schools),Norfolk,VA(USS Henry L. Stimson – Gold crew), Charleston, SC (shore rotation training), King’s Bay, GA (Stimson’s home port), Norfolk, VA (again – USNS Bowditch – a retasked special survey vessel), and  Port Canaveral, FL (USNS Range Sentinel) – as well as Rota, Spain, Lisbon, Portugal, Andros Island, Bahamas, and a few other ports of call.  Yo-ho-yo-ho and a bottle of rum (no, I wasn’t drinking adult beverages, just singing pirate ditties).  A definite change of location(s).

 Then, one day at sea, God finally called me back to Jesus.

 Our ship, the USNS Bowditch, was going through some rough weather (unlike on the subs, we could simply go down a few hundred feet and ignore it).  Conversation turned to the ‘do you believe in God’ and then to “do you believe in Jesus?”  Usually I avoided these discussions, but for some reason (yeah, I know it was the Holy Spirit now too) this time I chimed in.

 I was asked why I believed in Jesus – and “because the Bible tells me so” was not going to be a sufficient response with this group.  In forming my answer, I fell back on my own personal experiences and while explaining my reasons for my faith (including ‘Lord, Liar, Lunatic’), realized I was beginning to practice apologetics (the defense of the faith).

 Suddenly, I’m back to reading the Word.  I’m starting to study again and find proofs to show why I believed in a living, caring, loving Father in heaven and what His Son means to me and wanting to share this with others.

 And others saw a change in me… a re-repentance, if you will.  I’d walked away from God and tried to do things my way and had screwed it up pretty good.  But Jesus called me back to Him and this time I knew He wasn’t promising me a life of ease and no conflict; He was simply saying that with Him, my burdens would never be too heavy and that He would carry me through when I couldn’t make it on my own.

 And that became sort of my reverse challenge to others when discussing God, Jesus and what it meant to be a Christian – I told people, “I’m sorry.  I don’t think you’re tough enough to be a Christian – it ain’t easy to walk that road; to change your worldview. I’m just not sure you’re up to it; that you won’t run away when things get too difficult (like I once did).”

 But I also knew that God had forgiven me of my sins – all my sins – past, present and any I’d commit in the future — once and for always.

Which brings me back to the present and that returned phone call.

That we were able to go from a very rough start to our phone conversation to being able to say some of the things that needed to be said and wound up talking for 32 minutes (I know because I checked the timer on my cell phone).

I reached out over the last couple of weeks to try and reestablish a connection with someone who meant a great deal to me; who I loved like a brother.  And, praise God, he did respond.

Will this go any further than his forgiving me?  I don’t know.  I hope it does.  Can we rebuild some kind of a new friendship?  I certainly am praying it might be so.  Can I ever earn his full trust again?  Well, let’s take things as they say, one day at a time.

Forgiveness is possible.  And I thank Jesus for the example He was and what He preached about it.  And I thank my friend for forgiving me and his willingness to see where time and the Lord may take this new beginning.

I won’t embarrass him by naming names.  If he should read this post, he’ll know who I’m speaking to.