Whats my challenge?

“What’s your challenge this year Chuck?” Dave asked.

“I dunno.”

Every year I pick a challenge. In the past years it has been: tennis, record a song,  do 1000 situps, 20 pull-ups in a row ( got to 19 ), triathlon. I can follow this tradition back to high school when I climbed all the high peaks of the Adirondacks in 10 days but I have nothing for this year. It’s been a tough year just to keep my head above water.

Now its June and I have yet to pick my challenge.

I want to say that my challenge this year is to find the right girl. But that’s not appropriate. Finding the right partner is not a challenge I can complete on my own. Imagine watching a field of firebugs. They fly around aimlessly, attracting each other with their blinking lights. It’s not one seeking out the other, but the chance encounter that brings two firebugs together in the night.

So the challenge this year: To love myself. Thats all. This year, I am impervious to criticism. I will no longer perform for an audience of many, but to an empty theater. At the end of every performance I will imagine the standing ovation. Because I am my biggest fan, and I’m already standing.

 

My first performance is a re-run. I wrote this many years ago for a distant someone. Today I perform it for the last time.

 

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 9.27.48 PM

Today I thank Brenda for inspiring me to be better to myself.

Who’s afraid?

Undoubtedly this video will go viral. Deb was going in for a double mastectomy. Her life about to change forever. Does she look scared?

Yes.

She is scared as anyone would be. So is her team of doctors and nurses. As they should be. And as much as Deb is putting on a show to hide her fear, she’s doing much more than that. She’s also telling her team “I’m ok. I want you to be ok too”. All surgery comes with risk. There is a chance that Deb might not make it alive but instead of letting that tension overshadow the situation, she lead them in a celebration of life. Of course there is a practical reason to do this: A happy team is a successful team. But Deb is telling her team that if she doesn’t make it, she wanted the last people she sees to have fond memories of her.

 

I thought about my own surgery in 2007. My doctor wanted to thread a scope via my groin so he could take a look at my heart. A bunch of nervous looking nurses waited for the surgeon to start. A young nurse was checking my vitals when I began flirting with her. I wasn’t trying to pick her up, but I couldn’t resist the chance to make someone smile.

So there I was, with my lower half fully exposed, I asked her.

“So, do you come here often?” I think I saw a faint smile. Of course I couldn’t be sure with her surgical mask and hair cap covering most of her face.

“What time do you get off work?” I asked her. Still no response.

Tough crowd.

“Its very cold in here”.

“Yes we keep it cold to prevent infection”. Finally I get a response.

“I’m just saying its very cold in here so I want you to consider the issue of shrinkage.”

That broke the ice. Everyone laughed and the room felt 10 degrees warmer.

 

The surgeon hovered over me and said “We’re ready to start. Any questions before we begin?”

“Just one”, I replied. “Will I be able to play the piano after surgery?”

“Did you play before?” He asked.

“No.”

“Then we’re good to go”.

 

 

Today I thank my team who saved my life.

Happy Anniversary

4 Years ago today I almost died. Today I have a bad infected jaw which is causing me pain from jaw to chest. Oh four years ago I had similar pain. Tomorrow I celebrate 4 years of injections. I think a bunch of diabetics are getting together at Central Park to protest.

Saw aunt joyce today. Had a nice dinner.

Today I thank

Joyce, Dave, Mike, Nik, William, LB, Jacko

Disappointment

In a week I’ll be 39 and I’ve finally learned about disappointment. It’s not that people haven’t disappointed me in the past. Some have. And as I write this I feel tremendous disappointment but not towards someone else but disappointment in myself because I’ve allowed someone else to cause this feeling.

There is a knot in my stomach and although I’m incredibly tired, I cannot sleep. I know this is bad for my delicate health, yet I cannot control this feeling.

My logical mind screams, “Save yourself! Let go!”

But disappointment is like a climbing buddy. He hangs below me, dragging me down. But I cannot cut the rope. I would be free of him, I would be saved, but I don’t know how to cut him loose.

You can only be disappointed, if you allow yourself to rely on someone. It can be reliance on someone to come through in a pinch, or just for the belief that someone is there, thinking of you.

It would be very difficult to go through life thinking that no one cares. And it would be impossible to go through life thinking that everyone does. And as much as I try to be there for all my friends, the disappointment that I feel when my friends aren’t there for me is irrational. I cannot control the actions of others, and I cannot expect of them what I expect of myself.

So I’ll do it. I’ll cut the rope and save myself. I shall free myself of my own disappointment. It is solely mine as I am the cause. It is all within me.

Goodbye climbing buddy. I will miss you.

 

Today I thank:

Jack, Scott, Cheryl, Russ, Gina, Andy

Guilt

For all of Brad’s enthusiasm and collection of photo equipment, he was not a very good photographer. He was not a very good network administrator. He believed in conspiracies. And worst of all he tried to cure his cancer with vitamin B.

I wanted to tell him that he was crazy. Maybe tie him up and force him to get some real medical treatment. Who’s to say which one of us was more in denial? Him in believing that doctors don’t know what they are doing or me believing that there was any hope.

I didn’t know he had cancer when we hired him. I didn’t know he had cancer when his family invested their saving in the failing company. I would have tried to stop him. But that’s Brad, always positive. He came from a family that was positive. Brad’s dad invested the little money he had saved as an electrician into a completely mismanaged start-up. After he signed the check, he came in the office to wire up some equipment. Never seen a guy so happy to be crawling under desk with a screw driver and a flashlight. You’d think he bought the winning lottery ticket.

I know it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t make him any promises. I certainly didn’t suggest that he buy stock in the company. But that doesn’t really lessen the guilt. I was their leader. I didn’t do a very good job protecting them. Lots of people lost money. Some of them can simply write this off. But for some, it was their life savings. The company had spiraled out of control. I had lost any say in what went on from the very beginning. Still, I kept a front.

I really thought I could turn this around. I made some deals and gave up as much as I could to try to fix things. But in the end I lost. I lost my enthusiasm, my best years and nearly my life. But that is nothing compared to what Brad’s family lost. They lost Brad.

So today I thanks these people, and I ask for forgiveness:

Brad, Scott, Jack, Mike, Lorraine, Jenn, Jay, Anthony, TJ, Keith, Estelle, Doreen.

Brad took a fuzzy photo of Elvis

——————————

Brad passed away at 5:12 p.m. Saturday, January 24, 2009. He fought a
long, hard battle with colon cancer for many years. He was 37 years
old.
He was loved so much and will be missed even more.
Sincerely,
Bill and Sherron

Happy Third Birthday

Close one!

Three years ago today I came face to face with death. So I took a picture with my Blackberry phone while the nurses where not looking.

I wasn’t suppose to have the phone in ER, but I couldn’t part with it. The details of how I got there isn’t important. Lets just say that I should have taken much better care of myself. And now three years later, my memory of that day has become a little fuzzy. It plays in my mind like someone else’s story. It doesn’t seem as intense now and maybe not as close to the precipice.

In the three years I’ve taken much better care of myself. My blood sugar is under control, my weight is down and I’ve been exercising regularly. I feel stronger, but older.

How has this changed me? In many ways it has not. I’m writing this at 3:45am, just finished a couple of hours of work for a client. I’ve promised myself that I would not work this way again, however a zebra cannot change its stripes. I’ve always been adventurous, but recently with surfing and other activities to push the envelope, I’m fairly certain this has made me an excitement junky.

Jack cracking me up in the ER

I doubt I will ever really learn and perhaps I need someone else to really push me to conquer my last fear.

I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid to not live.

So tomorrow I’ll begin again.

Today I thank:

Kelli for saving my life

Jack for seeing me through it

Mom and Dave for holding strong

Terri for teaching me to live again.

Chuck 2.0

Best shape of my life. Not bad for 38!

I know that smile anywhere

Simcha took me to lunch today. The last time I saw her I was getting ready to leave Seattle. I assured her that I was ok which also assured myself of the same.

Thank you Sim for caring. She gave me a hug and a smile. I know that smile anywhere but I’ve seen another one just like it.

Today I thank Simcha.

Grandmother

This painting was done from a photo taken during my time with my grandmother.

I’m sitting in a cafe, thinking about why I don’t feel worse. Ten minutes ago, during the World Cup 2010 match of Korea versus Uruguay, my mother called to tell me she’s on her way to Taiwan. “There is no hope for grandmother” is what she mumbled in Taiwanese.
My grandmother took care of me when I was very young. I have some spotted memories of that time, but since the age of 8 when my family immigrated to the US, I’ve only seen her a handful of times. What I remember about my grandmother always involved food in some way. When I lived with my grandparents in Tainan, she would often take me to the market on her black bicycle. We would load up with groceries, and I would hold on to her tightly.
I also remember every morning begging her for a couple of dollars ( at $30NT to $1USD, that was probably about 1 nickel ) for breakfast at the street vendor. I loved the steamed rice cups with peanut powder and cilantro. They also included a delicious clear soup.
My grandmother spent hours everyday cooking. My grandfather and my uncles would eat both lunch and dinner at home, and everyday the meals where freshly cooked. We kept chickens in the yard, which was my job to feed them. When we have company, I would watch her grab a chicken, slice its neck and drip the blood in a cup. She would make a sort of rice cake with the blood and butcher the chicken for stew.
Back in those days we had a wood burning boiler. Grandmother would split some wood in the yard and light the boiler with some old newspaper. When the water was hot, she would bathe me using a ladle.
I don’t have any memories of doing fun things with my grandmother. She was a homemaker, 24/7. All of my memories are of her taking care of her family. She liked to complain but she also liked to laugh.
I hope I will remember her laughter for a long time.

Today I thank my grandmother

Tell me a joke Chuck

Anthony sent me a message today, “Tell me a joke Chuck”. I drew a blank. I used to know lots of jokes. I’ve memorized every punch line. It started when I read a book of jokes collected by a NYC taxi driver. There are all sorts of jokes, from childish, to racist to dirty. Here is one told to me by Andrew C in 7th grade:

A bear and rabbit were squatting next to each other in the woods. The bear asked the rabbit, “Does shit stick to your fur?” The rabbit answered “No.” So the bear pick up the rabbit and….

At this point in the joke, Andrew pretended to wipe his ass with an invisible bunny. Andrew was great at telling these particular types of jokes. He had another favorite about a dead cat but I wont go into details. You’ll have to ask me or Andrew in person.

I love telling stories, unfortunately mine just aren’t funny. I think I’m a funny person and I can usually make my friends laugh. For some strange reason, sitting alone at my computer, I cannot write anything humorous.

Adam Wade, now that’s a funny guy. He won Moth Story Slam 15 times! So enjoy this story by Adam, and I’ll try to think of a funny story.

Today I thank: Anthony, Alita, Adam Wade, Dad, LB, Andrew

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xF75rJOdQU