Apr 30

New Growth

When I look out the windows into our backyard I can see so much more than I did a year ago.  In August of 2008 we did a major landscape project.  Where there was only grass and a swing-set, there is now 8 norway spruce, 5 arborvitae, service berry, 1 japanese maple and a magnolia tree.  Then there is a multitude of flowers and ground cover.  I’ll be honest, the initial intent was to put a barrier between us and our neighbors.

That focus has changed.  Now we have a very nice back yard to look at or spend time in.  This time of year we can see all of the leaves and flowers.  The coolest thing to me is the new growth on the Norway Spruce.  Every tree is different, with the amount of growth and position.  There are trees that may have been on their last leg that are now sprouting.  Others are growing straight up while still others a growing out.  If I were a tree, you’d consider me the latter.

All of the buds remind me of a poem that I included in my graduation speech in 1985.  It was intended for the teachers, but really should have gone out to every that has made an impact in our lives.


****For the knowledge you’ve supplied us.  For the kindness you have shown

Through the times that you’ve enlightened us.  How through the years we’ve grown.

We can see how you’ve supported us..  in all of the things we do

For the many ways you’ve cared for us… we say “This buds for you!****  [place rose in vase]


A year ago I wondered if I would ever see well again.  Now I know, it’s just a matter of time.  It’s my own new growth!

Apr 25

A fool and his money

When I was much younger I remember hearing someone say, “Don’t ever play poker with a guy they call Pops, don’t ever eat at a roadside restaurant call Ma’s and ….”  I’ll have to finish that thought in a minute.

Last Friday Dr. Spetzler’s office called with the good news.  The other Cavernous Malformation is my brain (we’ll call him CavMal #2).  Even though my eyesight hasn’t returned to normal and the potential for more bad things to happen is still there, they’re not going to even consider surgery.  CavMal #2 is in a more risky position that #1.  It’ll be three more years before my next MRI, barring any other issues.

For now I carry on.  This is the new normal…for now.  On May 11th, I have my follow-up appointment with Dr. Katz (Neuro-Ophthalmologist).  He will determine what should be done with my eye-lids and right eye.  Although my right eye-lid pops open, from time-to-time, my right eye still doesn’t want to play ball.  …  eye, ball ? no pun intended.
When I look back at where I was a year ago, I can remember the leaves blooming and the pine trees having new growth.  I only saw it when I tilted my head back and lifted my eyelid by hand.  It’s pretty nice to come downstairs in the morning to see all of the green outside.  At this stage, a year ago, Colin would always tell me how he thought my eyes looked more open.  I always wanted to believe him.  After a while we both started to accept things for what they were.  There’s no point in saying something that’s not true.
There is, on the other hand, a point in accentuating the positive.  Maybe even faking the truth.  After a few months of saying “I’m great”, you start to believe it.  If nothing else your outward appearance changes.  No one could imagine what I see.  Many have tried to guess.  I wish it were as simple as seeing with only one eye.  Although there are times that is true.  At times, it’s like seeing with two eyes that see two different directions.  Without the perspective of other objects it’s like everything is a painting.  It’s amazing how much I can do.
There have been bad days, but nobody wants to hear about how bad I feel.  I certainly don’t want to tell someone how bad I feel.  I’d much rather tell someone how good I feel and see the smile of disbelief on their face. That’s cool.  I’ve never been one to wallow in sorrow.  Admittedly, I am an emotional person.  But, if possible, I’d rather my emotions make someone smile instead of pity me.
So, the rest of the saying goes, “not only are a fool and his money soon parted, but they were lucky to get together in the first place.”  What does that have to do with my update?  I’m not sure, but I’ve always wanted to say that.
Apr 15


Many people have asked me if I’ve gone through the stage of asking, “why me?”.  I don’t know.  That seems like a stupid question.  Who’s going to answer and will it change anything?  Maybe I have, but I just don’t remember it.  I can remember nights where I couldn’t get to sleep.  While on heavy steroids I remember having some strange dreams.  For example, I’m still waiting on the Mexican peddler to stop driving his truck up and down that street lined with parked cars.  Or the night I spent in the Tucson dessert.  But, I don’t remember asking “why me?”.

I’ve known for years of my medical issues, but the current circumstances have meant further inspection.  What do I mean?  Well, Mark Twain (or someone famous) once said, “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

I used to think it was to raise three beautiful and intelligent children.  Obviously, I’d done that.  But is that why I was born?  I used to think it was to be a salesman and build long lasting relationships.  I’ve done that and those relationships have weathered some pretty heavy storms, but is that why?  I know I was meant to be married to Connie, but that’s probably not why I was born.  Or is it?

I don’t want you to think that I’m a deeply intellectual thinker.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  But there have been many times where a cup of coffee, bottle of beer or lunch by myself have left me to my thoughts.  While my thoughts aren’t always pure they are real.  It’s caused me to pause, if nothing else.

Last Tuesday, at 6:30 AM,  I was forced to pause.  It was time for my annual MRI.  This was another reminder of the year that has passed since my surgery.  As I laid on my back for the first 25 minutes, I started to think about why I was still here.  A person with my history has to wonder.  Before the second round of “pictures” they injected me with contrast (i.e. dye).  This dye is notorious for making me nauseous for 10 seconds and then, before I actually get “sick”, it’s gone.  Then I sneeze and we’re good.  They strap me back in, slide the helmet over my face and slide me back into the doughnut.  For the next 25 minutes I’m even more perplexed.  How many people have the experiences that I do?  Probably a lot.  How many of them tell the world about it?  Probably not a lot.  Is this a gift or a curse?

Good news!  The initial report from the family doctor is that everything is “normal” or at least like it was a year ago.  It’ll be interesting to hear what Dr. Spetzler’s team has to say.  There’s still part of me that hopes they’ll say, “come back in and we’ll remove the other CavMal.”  It would be nice to put a bow on this chapter of my life and get on with the healing process.  I doubt that will happen.  Most people aren’t keen on “preventative” brain surgery.

Why was I born?  I don’t know.  Maybe I should tell my story to more people.  Who would listen?

Do you know why you were born?

Apr 01

I did it!

I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs this morning, but I did it.  At both church services I gave the following speech on my progress.  It’s amazing how much it took for me to stand in front of a crowd and speak.  It used to be so much easier, but today was more rewarding.  As I told those it attendance, this was part of my therapy in the healing process.

Here’s what I said….

Do you ever wonder how the people are doing that we prayed for last week?  How about last month or last year?  A year ago today there was a guy in your prayers that is still here and doing well.  He has spent the past year looking through one eye.  I actually remember him standing in front of you, in a puddle of tears, with his family.  He was a mess.
I know that guy.  I love THAT guy. I am THAT guy.
I’m the guy with one eye that you’ve seen in the narthex.  I’m the guy that was crossing the back of the volleyball court at a recent tournament.  As I walked briskly, I took a volleyball right behind my ear like one of those ducks at the carnival.  I’m THAT guy.
A year ago today, yes April Fools Day, I had brain surgery with a specialist in Phoenix, AZ.  The surgery was to remove a Cavernous Malformation (or a bunch of screwed up blood vessels) from my brain stem.  This would allow my vision to return to normal – or at least I hoped.
You may remember, if you were here for the results of my surgery, it went well.  There are still problems with right-side numbness and another Cavernous Malformation.  But, after 8 months of not being able to drive – I’m back in the driver’s seat.  As far as my vision returning to normal, well we’re working on that.  The hope is that I will have corrective surgeries over the next year to raise my lids and “straighten” my eyes.
Often times we go on about our day and forget about those people that we’ve prayed for.  I’m here today to remind you the power of those prayers.  I’m here to remind you that those prayers matter.  Remember that when you say your prayers, that these are actual people.  We have actual circumstances.  Some outcomes are better than others, but I’m here with a happy ending.
In September, I started to blog about my experiences and life in general.  I’d love to have you visit my blog and become a follower.  This will allow you to monitor my progress and share my experiences with others.  If you’re interested please come see some time.
Here’s the kicker, I don’t believe that God gave me these issues.  But, I’m sure that he wants me to use them for his glory.  I’ve seen many people gain value from it already.  That’s not only a Wagner family statement, but also a world statement.
Thank you all of your prayers and God bless!
It’s a great feeling when you overcome your fears.