New Seasons of Life
Yes, I’m a church nerd, but I always look forward to the season of Easter.  I look forward to a great Easter Sunday morning at church, yes,  but, then, I enjoy reveling in the ‘afterglow’ of the next few weeks.  I spend those weeks looking for signs of new life, reflecting on the experience of the cross, and expecting resurrection, not just because of old stories found in the Bible, but I expect signs of resurrection in the world around me.  I suppose signs of new life are always present, but I get excited about the season of Easter because it helps me to pay attention to the amazing things God is doing in this world.  This year, though, Easter wasn’t the season I expected it to be.
This year, I found myself tired as I came to Easter because I was doing a mandated (by the United Methodist Church) internship at BroMenn Regional Medical Center along with my full-time job.  Because of my exhaustion, I didn’t really take in Easter the way I ought to have, perhaps.  More devastating, however, was the abrupt end to our pregnancy after Carrie and I suffered a miscarriage.  A season that was supposed to draw my attention to new life became a season of loss and exhaustion.
Today, as I look toward Pentecost (this Sunday) and a new church season, I realize something, suddenly:  Even though I had a difficult season…there is hope.  I have an opportunity to let go of the troubled weeks of Eastertide and celebrate the hope of a new season in my own life.
You see, professionally, as I plan worship, I will set aside the themes and scriptures of Easter and I will prepare for a new season of different scriptures, songs, and worship themes.  I guess, in my personal life, I would do well to set aside the difficulties of these past weeks and months, in a similar way, and allow myself to focus on a new season and find hope for better weeks ahead!
For me, the hope that comes in a new season is:
  • the possibility of getting pregnant, again;
  • welcoming a new pastor to my church and fostering a new friendship;
  • renewing my own body and spirit this summer with exercise, right eating, and spiritual disciplines;
  • working on my relationship with my wife that the experience of this season would help us to deepen our relationship for the next.
As we leave the Easter season, we don’t leave behind the message of Christ or hope for the future.  Likewise, as we move from one season of life to the next we should never lose sight the experiences we have had, yet we have an opportunity to look for new life and experience resurrection.  Over these next weeks, I pray that we will continue to experience Christ’s resurrection and I pray that it will draw our attention to the resurrection all around us and help us to find renewal in our own lives!
blessings,
New Life
babycarnes

My wife and I have been wanting to get pregnant since late last summer.  It was frustrating month after month without the results for which we yearned.  One morning in February my wife woke me up with the exclamation that she was pregnant.  I was glad, but it didn’t seem real.  The only indication was a stick with a symbol on it.  I waited for it to ‘feel real,’ but the feeling didn’t come, at least right away.  I went with my wife to see our OB doctor a few weeks later but wasn’t expecting too much.  I had seen many people post those black and white sonogram pictures on Facebook and I have never been able to make out anything that resembles a life-form.  My lack of excitement had been a let-down and I expected to be equally underwhelmed by that visit.

My experience at the doctor’s office was very different from what I expected.  As the baby became visible on the screen, I was mesmerized.  I could actually see the little heart beating!  My heart leapt.  The doctor put the heartbeat on speaker while she measured it.  I could hear and see the incredibly fast thumping of that little heart.  My eyes were glued to that screen and when the doctor told us that our baby looked very healthy, so far, and that its heartbeat was very strong, I felt pride and joy all at once: It flooded over me in a totally unexpected way.

New life comes to us in very unexpected ways and seldom on our terms.  When we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit we can experience a newness of life: we can experience God in all new ways.  But it can be frustrating when it doesn’t happen right away:  there have been times that I prayed…fervently…yet I didn’t feel God in the way I expected.  But, experiencing God requires us to learn about ourselves and practice faith.  Much like those months of trying to become pregnant, It can take some time to experience God more closely way, but, once we are open enough to God it will just happen.  And when it happens, you will feel it.

For me, I didn’t experience the joy of new life when I expected to: at that first moment of finding out about the pregnancy.  No, I experienced overwhelming joy much later in front of an ultrasound machine.  Yes, the joy of new life often catches us unaware.  Week after week and month after month I pray that you will go to scripture, join together with other people of faith, worship God, and be in prayer.  When we become committed to these practices we will eventually and unexpectedly experience a new life for ourselves and grow in faith and with God.

Blessings,

Reboot

What does it mean to start over?  When it comes to a cake, you have to trash the whole burnt mess and start with all new ingredients.  Luckily starting fresh in life doesn’t have to be so violent (or messy), but it can be.  Sometimes we have to lose our lives in order to start over.  Jesus said something about that in the Bible, in fact….

For me, starting over wasn’t an obvious thing.  I didn’t even realize it was happening nor did I have that intent.  Yet, over the last few weeks I’ve come to realize that I look at certain things differently.  My worldview has shifted ever-so slightly.

I notice it in things as simple as my sleep schedule.  Over the last few months I’ve been going to bed earlier and getting my day started sooner.  Is it because I look forward to what tomorrow holds?

I notice it in my attentiveness to my wife.  I don’t know if she notices, but I’m a little more aware of what is happening for her, although a new church appointment has kept me from investing more time in my marriage.

I notice it in my outlook on issues and, even, moments of “crisis” around me.  I think the experiences of a brain tumor, two neuro-surgeries, and a near-death experience in my hospital bed have changed my world in ways I didn’t even realize…  somehow for the better.

I don’t think you will notice the changes I have experienced.  I don’t think it is in overt ways, necessarily, but it happened all the same.  As a pastor, I look around at the world and wonder…is that what faith does?  When we begin to see that there is hope and love in this world, does it change us?  I think so.  We don’t always notice the change right away, but when we see the world through the lens of possibility instead of impossibility…when we see that this world is more filled with love than hate…when we recognize that God can give us hope for a brighter tomorrow…I think it changes our world and us a little at a time.

Well, enough rambling for now!

Santa Cruz de La Palma
The view of Santa Cruz de la Palma from our stateroom.

Last night we enjoyed dinner at the Pollo Grill up on Deck 14 at 8pm.  It is the steakhouse onboard and I had a Lobster Bisque, salad, and Veal chop with potatoes.  Carrie had a goat cheese & beet starter, lobster bisque and a local Madeiran fish dish for her entrée.  After dinner we had intended to join Andrew and Katie for drinks, but time and energy caught up with us and we found ourselves very tired and in bed and asleep by midnight.

Today was an unplanned day.  We weren’t signed up for a cruise-line excursion and we hadn’t made detailed plans.  It was a nice relaxing day at a port of Santa Cruz (a small town) on the Island of Palma.  Santa Cruz de la Plama is a Spanish port (and, therefore, Island) of the Canary Islands.  Without major palaces, forts or Cathedrals to tour, AND since it was only a five minute (if that) walk to the city center:  It was the perfect day to be unscripted and relax!

The municipal market at Santa Cruz de la Palma

Each couple: Ken & Trish, Bob & June, Andrew & Katie, and Carrie & I went our own ways to spend our time, today.  Carrie and I were looking for scenic streets, alleys and lookouts for photos and found ourselves climbing steps (photo left) and going up steep streets to find photo opportunities, stopping by the municipal market along the way.  When we came back down to the city center we ran into Katie & Andrew who were sitting at a café.  Katie pointed Carrie towards a jewelry store.  We did our part to keep this island and its local jewelry maker prospering.  When we left the quaint little jewelry shop, we ran into Katie and Andrew, again, at another restaurant so we had lunch with them.  By now it was 1pm, or so, and Andrew headed back to the ship.

Moments later, while we still sat at the café, Bob and June happened upon us and we all enjoyed food and drink together.  Carrie, Katie and June went on for more shopping and Bob and I headed back to the ship.

And, now, we are all safe and sound on the ship and headed back out to sea.

Port of Motril, Spain

5:30 pm:

Leaving port yesterday we were able to witness a tug pulling the cruise ship, although I don’t think we had a tug any of the other times we left port.  I suspect it was because we were so tight in at the port.

I also learned something that I didn’t know:  The captain of a cruiseship, apparently, does not take the ship in or out of port.  A boat from the port authority comes out and meets the ship and then a captain comes aboard who specializes in “parking” cruiseships.  Huh.  Who would have thought.  We saw a small boat come up the other night and someone came aboard.  I didn’t think they were Somali pirates, but I guess I was curious who was jumping aboard before we got to port.  Now I guess I know.  Here is a video of…we’ll call him a valet…the guy leaving our ship after he got us out of port last night.

Last night was a bit choppier at sea.  We were late leaving port, but I think we left by 5:30pm or so and were at sea until sometime this morning.  For the most part, it is so smooth you hardly know the difference, but last night we could feel a bit more movement.  It was actually funny, because the first time I felt it, it felt like the disorientation I’d been feeling with my medicines since surgery (that just went away before the cruise) so I had to ask my wife if it was in my head or if the boat was moving.

Lunch in Granada (the arab quarter)

I had a restful night, but still had great difficulty getting up this morning.  My wife, I suspect, was quite irritated that we were leaving the ship later than intended, but she didn’t say a word.  Katie and Andrew joined with Carrie and I and we took a taxi from the port at Motril to Granada.  We really made the right choice in going on our own.  Katie and Carrie had both been there before and both feel that it is in their top 3 cities worldwide.  We only had a few hours so without the hustle and bustle of a tour group, we were able to relax and enjoy a long lunch off the beaten path (well, not really as far off the path as we would have liked).

After lunch Katie and Andrew and Carrie and I split up and went our own ways.  Andrew was on the hunt for some good local wines and Carrie and I really wanted to just enjoy the streets and get some interesting photos.  Since we didn’t have the time to go see Alhambra, we tried to find a scenic overlook from some tourist information, but to no avail.  We gave up and enjoyed our limited view.

We ran into Katie and Andrew just in front of a little café/bar.  How convenient.  We had drinks and relaxed in the shade before heading back down to the taxi.

The taxi to Granada was the only real way to go for us, but it was pricy.  We thought it would be about 80€ (somewhere around $100 or so) each way and would have had to started back a bit sooner (in order to find a new cab), but in the end we were able to hire a driver to wait for us and it was a bit cheaper.

When we got back to the ship we were exhausted.  It had been a good day, but we had tried to cover a lot of ground in a very limited amount of time.  Carrie and I couldn’t think of doing another thing.  I ordered room service treats (i’m working on a diet coke and fruit plate, right now) and I am working on this blog out on the balcony and Carrie has passed out into our bed.  We should be getting underway, soon.  Tomorrow, I think, is a day at sea, so no stops.  That means time by the pool and cooking classes in the Bon Apetit Culinary Center.

Hope this note finds you all doing very well!

7:00 pm:

Update:  Well, internet was down earlier, so I have more to say, now 🙂  Our cruise director came on earlier to let us know to expect a bit more motion today / tonight as we leave port and head to the Atlantic.  It is nothing to worry about, but the wind has, apparently, picked up and we’re in for rougher waters.  He wasn’t kidding!  It’s not enough to feel sick, but enough to know you’re on a ship.

Well, That really is enough, I think.  I’m going to get back to the fun of vacation!

Valéncia, Spain


Gardens at the Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias
9:00 am:
Yesterday was a terrific day with tours, relaxation and some time exploring on our own.  Really this cruise thing has been a better mix than I thought it would be.  This morning we came into port around 6:30 or 7am.  By the time our coffee and english muffins arrived and we moved to the balcony (at 7:15am) the ship was just finishing docking.
Carrie and I enjoyed some toast / muffins and tea / coffee on the balcony thinking that we would go eat in one of the on-board restaurants later, but, you know, by the time we had a little something and got ready for the day, there didn’t seem to be a point.  I think we’ll survive until lunch, though…  🙂
Carrie just finished getting ready and now we’re heading out.  When we signed up for excursions we decided not to sign up for a Cruiseline planned excursion here in Valencia, so we are striking out on our own.  The ship leaves at 4pm, so we have to be back by 3:30pm and can spend the rest of the day reading and relaxing by the pool.
I hope that all is well for you…wherever you may be as you read this blog!


4:00 pm:
We’re back!  It was a great day, for sure.  I was grumpy this morning because I had not slept well last night.  It wasn’t a comfort thing… i was just amped up.  Anyway, most people who know me well will know that I get grumpy when I don’t sleep enough.  So, I think Carrie and I argued all the way to Historic Valencia, but, I quickly got over myself and we had a great rest of our day.

A church tower at Plaza Lope De Vega
Our first stop was the Plaza Lope De Vega.  Then we walked to the Cathedral and Basílica, but decided that outside was enough for us, today.  We had planned to go to the Mercado Central (Central Market) but got a report from Bob and June that there were no longer vendors there (it had been converted to coffee shops and restaurants).  We decided to pass on that.

The Cathedral (above) and streets nearby (below)


The argument earlier that day was because iI wanted to go see the Cuidad de las Artes y las ciencias (City of Art and Science) which is a complex of museums in Valencia.  It caught my eye because of the Aquarium where they have and underwater observatory where you walk under the water.  Well, we had time, so we headed out in a taxi for the museums.  Once we got there we enjoyed a walk to the aquarium, but it turned out it was €30 which is about $40 (?) per person.  If we could have just done the underwater walk or if it had been less expensive we might have done it.  But as it was it would take about 3 hours and we just didn’t think we had the time if we were going to enjoy our lunch and get back to the ship with comfort.

A view of the museum campus in Valencia

In the end the time, expense, and exercise we got on the way to the museums paid off by the sights we saw.  The buildings were stunning and we enjoyed walking through the parks nearby.  If we had to do it again, we would…it’s just that we would allow time to go through the museum, too.  Maybe we would plan a day just for the museums on a return trip.
We caught a taxi to lunch.  Katie and Carrie had found a restaurant out in the countryside that was well-known for their paellas, so we met Andrew and Katie outside of town at this country restaurant.  It had been written up and, then, made further famous when Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali ate there.
We also enjoyed our meal.  It was delicious and worth the cab fares for certain!  You can take a peek at our meal, too:
 

We got back to the ship with plenty of time to spare and we are now getting set to relax.  Carrie just headed up to the pool, so I will leave you all behind and follow after her!
Blessings,


A day in Palma Mallorca & Valldemos

8:30 am:  

There was briefly an alarm going off on-shore…I hope they didn’t mistake us for pirates 😉  Actually, it was a perfect and uneventful morning, but now we are bustling around a bit to get ready and be in the lounge where we are expected for our first excursion of the cruise.  It is called “Panaramic Valldemosa”

If you would like to learn a little bit more about: Mallorca, Valldemosa.

2:15 pm:

We couldn’t remember exactly what it was we signed up for (a month ago), but it turned out to be a relaxing trip up into the mountains just seeing the sights.  This is different than past Bob & June Berry vacations.  They usually have a car and more freedom to get away from the crowds, so Carrie and I were a little worried about this trip.  Even though we rushed past several sites (and leisurely walks) we would have liked to take in, our destination was a great, old, monastery that sat in a picturesque village.

On the way out of Palma we passed a seemingly amazing cathedral, which would make a great stop in Palmas on another trip and saw a very enjoyable path along the ocean, should we ever get back here.

Anyway- Once we toured the monastery, Carrie and I got away and walked around the village on our own and ended up back near the monastery at a little Café.  The highlight of my trip so far was being able to order for Carrie and I (Carrie was en los banos) in decent-enough Spanish.  Alright, the waitress knew English perfectly well, I’m sure, but I still accomplished something.  Go Me!

I was wearing out.  Carrie, June, Andrew & Katie all went on into Palmas de Mallorca to have lunch at a renowned Michelin-Star Tapas restaurant, but I was too tired.  I knew I was going to hit my wall and ever-since my surgeries…when I hit it, I’m done.  I wanted to be sure to be in the comfort of the ship when I got to that point, so here I am writing this blog and then heading up for lunch with Bob, Ken & Tricia.

Well, for now, Buenos Tardes, Amigos!!!

In Barcelona
my beautiful wife at breakfast with me.

Well, we made it across ‘the pond’ and let me tell you something…it was my most pleasant trans-atlantic flight, yet!  You see, the upside of having had two brain surgeries this spring?  Pain relievers.  There is no reason to fly uncomfortably if you can help it and, this time, I could.  A couple of Somas was probably the most helpful part of my trip 🙂

Heathrow Airport in London

The only snag we had, was right away in St. Louis at the airport.  Carrie and I were in the last group of passengers to board and they ran out of room for over-head carry-ons…so one of our bags had to be checked plane-side.  Except, it never showed back up.  Luckily there wasn’t much in it, but the biggest loss are my tennis shoes.  so sad.  The good news is that they have found the bag and it’s on-route to Barcelona…but we’re leaving Barcelona, so we hope it ‘catches up’ soon!

La Boqueria, a market in Barcelona
The plaza near La Boqueria

Our first day of the trip, once we made it to Barcelona, was very nice.  We went to La Boqueria which is a famous market and we enjoyed appetizers and drinks in a lovely plaza nearby.  The crowds were too much for me (ever-since my surgeries I can’t handle that sort of noise and crowds).

our hotel lobby

After a restful night our bags are in the hall with their tags and we are down in the restaurant.  We’re on our way!

Thursday Night: Near-Death

This is the dressing and where the lumbar drain enters my spine.
You can also see a white (and red) safety valve just below my waist.


Before I tell this story I want to catch-up anyone who hasn’t been reading along in this blog.  At this point I had a lumbar drain in my back so that they could keep the pressure from building in my brain.  They were draining off 10 mL of spinal fluid every hour, but this is dangerous.  If something happens that too much fluid drains I could get sick, have migraines or die, if I lost too much.  Also, as you read in the last post, infection is a very big concern when they keep a hole open in your spine, so I have been nervous ever since my surgery.  My nightmare night-after-night had been that the nurse had left my drain open or it had come loose and I was dying!
Alright, so now with the story:
On Thursday evening my wife went for dinner with her sister and I was sitting in bed with my iPad and decided to check facebook, twitter, email, etc.  Since I was having some trouble with diarrhea because of the antibiotics and the many laxatives they had me on (to combat the pain meds) I asked the nurse to put an absorbent pad back on my bed.
Now, if you are laughing at me a little you have to understand that, at this point, I have two sets of monitors hooked to me, sequentials on my legs, a very important tube connecting my lumbar drain in my back to that machine, and, often, an IV.  Also, I’m a fall risk so I’m not supposed to move without someone helping me…and it sometimes takes a few minutes before anyone answers my call button (let alone how long it takes them to unhook me and get me to the bathroom).  So having bathroom troubles isn’t an easy thing.  It was very likely that I was going to leave a pretty big mess.
Back to my original story:  The nurse put a pad on my bed, but I’m tall and it wasn’t positioned quite right, so I remember sitting in bed and scooting about (the nurse supervised) and I pulled the pad up under me.  I worry that I might have unintentionally and unknowingly pulled something loose at that point, but we’ll never know.  The nurse left and would come back later with my meds.  I remained in the same position checking facebook on my iPad.  When the nurse came back with meds about 30 or 45 minutes later I was having a queasy stomach and felt a migraine coming on.  It should have hit me then that something was amiss.  I told my nurse that I had an unset stomach and a migraine coming on.  My nurse left and later, I’m not sure how much later it was, (I was having a major migraine by then) I felt something wet behind me.  I put down my hand into a bed full of spinal fluid.  It still took a moment for me to realize what was happening.  I looked down to see what had spilled and couldn’t find the tube for my lumbar drain.  Once it hit me, I was utterly terrified by what I was experiencing.
I pressed the call button immediately and tried to turn up on my side the way I had lay the other night when he re-did my dressing.  Luckily the unit secretary answered the call right away and I called out that my spinal fluid was leaking out.  I don’t know how she made sense of what I was saying, nor do I know how my nurse, Sean, made it to my bedside so quickly, but it was his quick thinking and steady hands that were able to pull the bandage away and find a tube to clamp off.
The nurse came back and told me he had paged the surgeon and he waited, pacing (and freaking out a little), with me in the fetal position and blanket over my head (trying to keep dark because of the migraine I was suffering).  There were many nurses and others (interns?) in my room by now.  I could reach my phone so I called carrie to tell her that she should come right away.  I lay there and finally worked up the courage to ask the question I needed so badly to ask, “If I lost too much spinal fluid to survive, would we know it already or will we find out later?”  One of the nurses replied, “I don’t know, we need to wait for the doctor.  The surgeon arrived and explained that to help alleviate my migraine I need only to be laid out flat.  The migraine subsided a bit as he raised the bed to table height.  I told him I’d just had work done on the dressing the night before and he responded that he was the one who had done it.  I told him, “Then, doctor, you have seen my ass two times more than I would like!”  (Which did illicit laughter from him and the rest of the room)
He said that I am young and healthy and since I was still alive and conscious I would likely be alright.  He later told Carrie that if I were elderly or obese or otherwise in poor health I would have likely died from loosing so much spinal fluid.
So, as be began to work on me, my wife arrives on the floor.  I know this because I could hear her voice raising as she tried to get past the nurses.  To Carrie’s chagrin the room was already sterilized and they would not let her in.

I laughed a little and told the surgeon to watch out.  I explained that Carrie, if she feels I was in danger and he was keeping her away from me…I explained that she would probably let him have it.  After a moment of silence I said, “but don’t worry, I’ll remind her that you and this nurse just saved the life of the man she loves.”
As Carrie continued to try to get in, the surgeon leans over and says to me, “That is true love.  We have a hospital full of people who don’t have visitors, but you have someone fighting to be with you and to advocate for you.”

Had I been older or in worse shape, had I not realized the fluid was leaking out, had my nurse not been so quick…had the night not gone just as it did, I might not have survived that night.  The recurring nightmare I’d been having all week came true, but because of an excellent nurse and just a short time later an excellent surgeon, I was put back together and my wife and I were able to see one another again.  By the time the surgeon finished it was well after 1:00am.  Carrie, again, stayed the night.  I mean, it really wasn’t a choice, at that point.  I don’t think anything could have moved Carrie out of that room that night.