Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Don't Get Distracted

Recently I was driving to work around 7AM.  I took the familiar route I've used for several years on the commute.  The route is so familiar to me I could possibly drive it blindfolded, more or less.  Yet, this particular morning I took an unexpected detour.  As I was getting close to the hospital, I received a message on my pager, never a good sign.  I was told a patient was about to undergo a routine operation and was missing some paperwork on his medical record.  It wasn't my fault, just somewhere during his preoperative evaluation a form had been omitted.  Hence, the operating room wanted me to submit this paperwork as soon as possible so they could begin the operation.  I told the operating room I was still about 5-10 minutes away from the hospital but would work on the paperwork as soon as I arrived in my office.  Slightly flustered, I hung up the phone and continued to venture towards the parking deck at work.

Then, I was hit with a strange sensation.  Something about the street seemed odd.  As I approached an intersection, I noticed the traffic light was missing or had been altered.  There was a sense I was in the wrong place, maybe in "the twilight zone".  Soon, it dawned on me what was going on....I had turned the wrong way down a one-way street.  Thankfully there was sparse traffic.  Therefore, I quickly turned off the errant road and finished my commute to work, still astonished about my driving miscue.

In this day and age, there are some stories about the dangers of distracted drivers, whether talking on the phone or texting.  In a brief moment, much to my dismay, I succumbed to distraction, thankfully without any harm to myself  or others.

Surely there is a life lesson here.  When going through life, always stay focused and try to keep your eyes on the road.  There is basically not enough time to take side journeys, especially when they may cause potential harm to yourself or those around you.  Don't get caught up in "the twilight zone".  Try to stay in the real world and fulfill all the dreams that God has placed in your heart.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Joy In Small Town USA

I was invited recently to do a radio interview at a country station in Ashland, Alabama to talk about my cancer survival and my books. Since it was a pretty good drive from my house (plus the interview was at 7:30AM), I decided to drive down the night before and stay in a bed and breakfast facility (one of the few lodging facilities in Ashland, Alabama).  Little did I realize what a joyful trip this would become.

Basically, to get to Ashland, I had to drive to Talladega (home of the Talladega 500, for you race fans) and go south about forty five minutes.  I made a few turns in Talladega with the help of a GPS system which I had borrowed from my in laws and eventually landed on the Ashland Highway, a two-laned road (occasionally three lanes) which took me through the country to Ashland.  Going through a wooded area, I kept waiting for a deer to dart out in front of my car but thankfully the woods were quiet.

I arrived at Brown Gables, a bed and breakfast inn which is over a hundred years old.  The owners, Ellen and Michael, had restored this facility in magnificent fashion, even after a massive fire had gutted it several years before. I was impressed by the massive ceilings, the abundance of antiques strewn about the place, and most importantly, my bedroom.  I don't know much about antiques but I slept in a bed that was raised high off the ground with high bedposts.  As a matter of fact, I had to use a stool just to climb on the bed.  I also had a fireplace in my bedroom which I didn't use.  Of course, there were all sorts of trinkets on the dressers and walls, so many special articles that I was afraid I would break something.  I was also afraid I would fall off the bed during the night, quite a distance before I would hit the floor.

I awoke the next morning and drove through downtown Ashland, past the splendid Ashland Courthouse and followed a road through some hills and valleys until I finally arrived at WCKF 100.7 FM, a country station nestled on top of the mountains.  A black dog named Isabel lovingly embraced me as I got out of my car, continuing to add to the splendor of my trip.  A few minutes later I sat down with David and Teresa, who both made me feel welcome as I began the radio interview.  At the close of the interview a couple of people called the station and received autographed copies of my books.  A local pastor's wife also called, stating she wanted a copy of both of my books for their church library.  Afterwards, I dropped by Brown Gables to pick up my luggage and headed home.

Yet, I couldn't forget the sense of wonder I felt in the radio station. After having cancer, major surgery and chemotherapy years ago, little did I realize where it would take me.  In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined ending up in a radio station on a mountain in the country.  Visiting the bed and breakfast inn also would have been improbable had it not been for cancer.

I wrote my first book, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer", to describe the many difficult places I had to go due to cancer, e.g. major surgery, multiple hospitalizations, lingering effects from chemotherapy, etc.  Little did I realize the happy places I would go because of cancer, e.g radio interviews, TV interviews, visiting places I had not seen before and meeting people I had not known before.  As C. S. Lewis titled one of his books, cancer has given me "joy by surprise".