Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Letter 2010

Well, let me just start by saying the obvious: this was not a good year.  Okay, you knew that.  I don't want to belabor the tragedy of this year and wear the cloak of grief again.  I've worn that enough.  I've worn it out.  I hate that cloak.  A new friend of mine told me that too often we try to rush through grief.  I don't think I rushed through anything.  My son and I can attest that there have been far too many difficult periods.

Rather, I want to dedicate this Christmas letter to thank the people that reached out and helped Rob and me this year.  From the very moment that tragedy struck and Sherri was taken from us, friends, family and long lost acquaintances reached out to help.  The outpouring has been and still is astounding.

To my parents, brother and sisters, nephews and nieces.  You dropped everything and you came to sit through the vigil as we waited to hear about Sherri.  I will never forget the compassion you showed to Rob, Emily and me that day and continue to show.

To my close friends Scott and Thao. You arrived as soon as you heard and you spent many evenings since just being there to listen.  You have both shown unending kindness and love to me and my family.

Lori Reisfelt, I am truly lucky to have you as a friend and you've been an empathetic heart that helped me through the really tough times that few can appreciate.

Amy Bode and Jacqui Crist, thank you for mobilizing the Team in Training friends and being a source of sympathetic support.

Dave Holmes-Kinsella, you came to help immediately and you tried diligently to get me back to a new normal.  Thanks for reaching out with the dinner invitations and the the bike rides.  I will always remember the ride up Tunitas Creek and that moment I realized the significance of that place.  You responded with quiet compassion.

To all the friends of Sherri, me and my family.  When I saw the SRO crowd at the church at Sherri's service, I was astounded at the faces from many times and places.  You honored the memory of Sherri beyond words.

To the friends that took me to lunch and dinner, just to check up on me, like Merla, Barb, Chris, Aaron, Denise, Peggy, it meant a lot then and now.

Tom Cary your empathy and prayers have been a source of peace.

Pastor Mark Wollan, your concern and support were genuine and heartfelt.  You went beyond your role as a minister and took a personal interest in supporting our family.

Mike Sale, I appreciate your weekly calls and your continuous efforts to take my money on the golf course.

Molly Sims, Janet Brown and Kimberly Wycoff thank you for the diversions and getting me in touch with new friends and acquaintances.

There are many more to thank and if I didn't name you, please don't feel slighted and I appreciate every act and every kind word.

The person that I owe the most to this year is my son, Robert.   At least once a week we'd go out to dinner and we would talk about what our current experiences were.  We would share how we were feeling and discuss the week ahead.  We'd talk about Sherri.  He doesn't realize that I can see her influence in him and it makes me proud of the son we raised.

This year Rob and I rode Foxy's Fall Century bicycle ride.  At about mile 95, it struck me what I would miss.  In the past when Rob and I would do a long ride like Foxy's, afterward I would tell Sherri how proud I had been watching him overcome the challenge of doing the ride.  I would recount how he had no business finishing the ride but his own determination pushed him through.  I told Rob this and that what I really missed, at that moment, was that sharing with Sherri.  That ability to make new memories and share them, had been taken away.  I wiped the tears from my weary eyes and we continued to ride in silence.   Without saying a word, I knew he understood our loss and I knew he missed her too.  

Despite the one overwhelming event, it was not entirely a bad year.  There were many significant achievements too.  At work my team received great kudos for pulling off a very successful customer conference.  We generated more leads, reached more customers and executed more campaigns than any year prior.  My son and I spent several Saturday afternoons cheering for the beloved Cal Bears football team, exhorting them to victory.   While I didn't do the Death Ride, I successfully completed Solvang's Finest Century in November and, as I mentioned earlier, Rob and I completed Foxy's Fall Century in October.   The highest point of the year was having the honor of being in my friends Scott and Thao's wedding.  It was an exceptional moment from some exceptional friends.

The outreach of support also had unexpected benefits.  I was able to meet and create new friendships.  I also connected with people that I hadn't seen in many years.  Like finding a rare treasure, we were able to unwrap our friendships and make up for lost time.

In case you didn't know, Rob is an excellent writer.  He's continuing his studies and is trying to get accepted into San Jose State next fall.  If you know anyone in the CSU system, maybe you can put us in contact with them. Anyway, one of his works was selected as a finalist for the annual DVC writing awards for fiction.   He got a job for the winter as a sound and light technician for the local church.  His writing and his job allow him to express his boundless creativity.  I've read his assignments and I'm still astounded by his use of metaphors and his ability to write evocatively.  He's not limited to writing fiction, he's also written scripts for his friend Thomas's videos that are equally as enjoyable.

As the holidays are here, though I am reminded about the losses, we do survive.  We push on and know that there are joys and treasures in places we least expect.  At Christmas, in particular, I think about what we have.  I have been blessed by a lifetime of memories, the compassion of my friends old and new and the love of my family.  And for that, I am grateful.

Merry Christmas

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hopyard Nights

I've seen post traumatic stress syndrome.  He sits across from me at the Hopyard Ale House in San Ramon at least once a week for the past 4 months.  He makes very funny observations and he has very funny tales.  I think most of the time he just laughs at my embarrassing behavior as I constantly misunderstand what the server is saying to me.   He's engaging and very interesting to be with.   But he also doesn't sleep and he has other serious manifestations of stress.  I can't imagine the utter shock and convulsive agony it was to find her.  I wished so much that it hadn't ever happened and I wish even more it hadn't happened to him.

We talk.  We talk about plans.  We come up with party ideas.  We talk about his friends and his school plans.  We talk about girls he likes.  We talk about girls he should like.  We talk about his writing; he is an excellent writer.  We talk about current events and films we've seen.

We talk about Sherri.  We work through it, ever slowly.  This is something that we both realize needs good third-party advice; and he will get that.

I want to round the mark.  In a sailboat race they travel to a predetermined waypoint that designates the farthest part of the course.  They then round the mark and head to the finish.  It's time for us to start the downhill run.  When you see him or talk to him, let him know that you care.


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Stockholm Syndrome

You know, my last blog post was a very heartfelt, emotional catharsis and I expected my next post to get back to the observational absurdities that typically fill these updates.  I'm not quite there yet. 
I literally cried every day for 6 weeks after Sherri passed away.  Now I cry randomly.  They say crying is good for the spirit because it helps you release the emotions   They say you feel better.  I'm not so sure.  I do know that it's not every day, so I guess that's a sign that things are trending in the right direction.
I'm in Stockholm.  That's Stockholm, as in capital of Sweden, not Stockton, as in the arm pit of California.  Minor apologies to anyone from Stockton.  It was sunny today, which is totally appropriate for a Sunday, and every Stockholmeo was outside taking in the sunshine like worms coming out after the rain.  I had flown in this morning and after I checked into the hotel, I decided to take a walk around the center of the city.  I walked for quite a while and I noticed that the overwhelming majority of groups of people were couples or couples with kids. At times I felt like the only person in Stockholm out by himself.  I'd take consolation when I saw the occasional jogger and observe that they're by themselves so I'm not the only one.  I walked out to an island, Grundevaldgarten or something like that; there was a bridge; that made it much easier to walk to it. I sat on a bench looking back at the center of the city and I took this picture.  

As I sat on the bench, I started looking through the pictures in my iPhone and looked at pictures of Sherri.  I came across this picture from a walk that we took on a sunny day in January this year. It was a day when we walked as a couple.  Right then I was glad I was sitting at bench at the end of the island because the tears just started streaming down my face and I sure didn't want any well-meaning Stockholmeos trying to figure out what was wrong or reporting me to the police.  I just wanted to hold her hand again and share the beauty of the day.  I knew it would have made her happy and that would have made me happy.
I re-realized something at that moment. For me, and I'm sure for many of you, it really is about other people. I mean the joy in life comes from the relationships.  The more intimate those relationships become the more intense the joy becomes.  Of course, there's risk with that.  The loss of an intense relationship is much more painful. Some people will not engage in an intense relationship for fear of pain, fear of loss.  Some people will withhold themselves out of self-protection.  Not me.   When that time comes again, when I'm ready to have that intense relationship, I'll throw myself once again into the breach.  The joy will always far outweigh the pain.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, May 17, 2010

And so I write

They say that life happens while you're making other plans. 

In my last update, I wrote about Bob and the letter his wife Leah had written.  At the time it broke my heart to read her words about Bob's terminal cancer.  I couldn't imagine the pain she was enduring.  I still can't imagine her pain but on April 6th I got my own dose of life's fateful twists.  I apologize to those of you who are learning about this just now.  On April 6th my wife Sherri passed away from a unpredicted brain aneurysm.  And just like that, a beautiful life has left us and the world changed.  The memorial service was beautiful as it was traumatic.  Our children, Emily and Rob, delivered incredibly heartfelt eulogies for their mother and I couldn't be prouder of them.  We each wrote letters to Sherri and included them in the service program.  Mine is posted on my blog.  Every day since has been a fog of tears, confusion, anxiety, lack of concentration, sleepless nights, compassionate friendships, lost friendships, loneliness and hope. 

As I made the unavoidable return to the work world, I learned on April 18th, Bob Norling passed away from the damned non-Hodgkins Lymphoma he'd been battling. Far too soon after Sherri passed away I was sitting in church listening to Bob's wife and his friend deliver heartfelt eulogies.   The fog in my head was still pretty thick and I sat through the service like I was watching a film with the audio out of sync with the film.  Despite my disoriented state of mind, their words tapped the well of tears that had been unsealed only three weeks earlier. Once again I can't convey the emotions as well as Bob's wife, Leah.

Bob as you recall is the reason I got re-engaged in Team in Training and pledged to help raise money to fight cancer.  People were so touched by Bob's story that they donated $4000 so far to help fight blood cancers.  Don't stop now; please go to my fundraising page and donate if you can.  Thank you to the many people that have supported my fundraising.  I can't thank you enough. 

When I started writing my updates this season, I fully intended to finish my story about my trip across France.,  I had a particularly life-changing tale about my climb up the Tourmalet but now it all seems so long ago in a life from a sweet shattered dream. That story will have to wait for another time and frankly, a whole lot of  healing.  As I muddle through the emotional shards of my new life, I'm learning to look at it from a entirely new perspective.  I've decided to start writing again. I feel that it will help me clear my thoughts and return me to a new normal.   I have one request from those that have been following my adventures and updates.  I realize that the only thing that really helps to get through these times is to talk to people.  I would love to hear from you.   Drop me a message or give me a call.  I'm still the same guy; my life is just a lot less ordinary. 

Thanks for reading, stay tuned as the pieces come together.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

Dear Sherri,

"Well done, good and faithful servant"

That's what the card said on the flowers that arrived for you. As soon as I read it, I was overwhelmed by a deluge of tears and sobs. As soon as I read it, I knew it fit you perfectly. Of course you would have recognized immediately where the verse originated; I had to look it up.

Sherri, you are a woman of uncommon generosity, boundless love and unwavering faith. The stories people recounted over the past few days confirm that statement. People that know you are amazed at your kindness and all of them miss you dearly.

We met under the most awkward of circumstances on Halloween night 31 years ago; I thoroughly embarrassed myself at Ken and Liz's Halloween party by hovering over you and trying to get you to remove that full length green sweater to reveal the risque "I Dream of Genie" costume underneath. You would not relent even though I tried every trick in the book to get you to take it off. After the party, I thought of you and assumed I would never hear from you again after my performance. Little did I know that, as you told your friend Peggy, I had caught your eye and you were smitten. If Peggy hadn't corroborated it, I wouldn't believe it, but you said you told her on the way home from the party, "I'm going to marry that guy." Little did you know, you had caught my eye too. I thought you were the most beautiful girl I laid eyes on. You were shy but you seemed quite kind. Your amazing smile and laughing eyes captivated me. You were the sweetest person I'd ever met; 31 years later, it's still true.

You loved me. You loved Emily and Rob. I remember all the Christmases, birthdays, Easters, and random events when you would take extra care to make our favorite desserts, give us a thoughtful gift, or surprise with something you found at the store - on sale, of course. Every time I went on a business trip, you'd sneak a note into my luggage, just to let me know you were thinking of me. All you wanted in return was to be held, to be kissed, to be appreciated and listened to, and to be loved. When I left the house to go to work and you were still asleep, I would kiss you gently on the head being careful not to wake you and I'd whisper "I love you", you always smiled and let out a little sigh. Just this last Easter, I remember sitting next to you on the couch and just reaching out to hold your hand. As we held hands, in just that simple gesture, you were happy. We were in love.

You loved kids. Obviously, you loved our kids the most. Even now, though they're 26 and 22 years old, you still tell them - "You're my babies; you'll always be my babies." You held Emily through the night as she endured a countless string of ear infections. You stayed awake by Rob's crib all night after his surgery when he was a baby, praying and caring for him. I remember how proud you were at all of Emily's recitals, the school plays, or just watching Rob work the video and sound for the church. When Rob and Emily both performed on saxophone and piano in front of the church in Oakland, you couldn't have been prouder.

Sherri, you taught me the definition of unconditional love. I had heard about it, but I only associated it to mothers and children. You demonstrated it constantly with me. From the day you knew you loved me, you were one hundred percent committed to loving me. Even though we hit many potholes in the road of marriage, you continued to love me through it all. I learned from you that unconditional love means just giving yourself over to the one you love. You made yourself a gift to me, and like a gift, it was given freely. You essentially said, "I am yours, cherish me."

Over the years, you amazed me with your incredible generosity. You were always involved with the church. At first you taught Sunday school at Concord, at Walnut Creek you handled the worked in the tech booth recording the services for the radio listeners, in Danville you worked running the PowerPoint presentations. You just couldn't say no. As the kids and I were trying to decide which charity you would like to supported in lieu of flowers, we realized you supported all of them. You gave to religious organizations, cancer research, the heart association, SPCA, wildlife funds, Girl Scouts, the national parks, missions, the Heifer Project, and many more.

Your support for Team in Training goes beyond admirable to legendary. To this day, participants and coaches talk about the amazing food preparation and support you provided to the riders that were raising money to fight leukemia. You set the bar so high, that people still talk about the nice surprises you made in order to make the riders more comfortable. They didn't see the long hours you put in making nutritious goodies for the team. I knew that you had been up until three or four in the morning preparing for the day's ride. And every time I met you at a rest stop, I'd ask you how you were holding up. You were exhausted but you would always be cheerful and supportive to every rider that came by. Everyone was appreciative, but they didn't grasp just how amazing you were.

You loved nature and always commented on the beauty of God's design. Every time we traveled you made it a point to see a marvelous site. Even though I wanted to relax by the pool with a beverage, you would want to see the local sites. Of course, we always ended up seeing the local sites. Whether it was driving all over Barbados, the Big Island, or the many national parks, we always saw the obscure little venues that only locals knew about. You loved when we went exploring and hiking down a less traveled trail. On Palm Sunday we went hiking in Castle Rock Park to see the wildflowers you love so well. When we hiked up the ravine trail to Shell Ridge, you were so ecstatic to see the delicate flowers amidst the emerald green trees and grasses that you said it was truly a gift from God. You saw beauty everywhere and in everything. I remember sitting with you for hours watching brown pelicans along Moonstone Beach diving into the waves. And while I enjoyed the beauty of the moment, it filled you with awe and you experienced it much more spiritually than I could grasp.

You love God. You truly modeled yourself after the Bible and Jesus. Your faith is unparalleled. Most people would lie in bed and read a book before going to sleep. You would too, but it was either the Bible or a book based on the teachings from the Bible. That was your foundation. I'd come to bed and say "Good book?" You'd laugh at the same old joke because you knew of course it was The Good Book. You would wake every morning, read from the Bible and you would pray. You always told me that you prayed for me and the kids. Many times you would tell me about a new discovery you made in a recent passage. I would tease you about Catholic dogma and that the Protestants got it wrong. I loved our little debates because I would pit my Catholic upbringing against your Protestant beliefs. Even though you would act shocked at my biblical backwardness, you loved our little debates because you knew you were right, you always had me outgunned and you knew I was doing it to "be a monster".

You based everything you did around your passionate belief in the Bible and Jesus. Honestly, I always admired how fervent your faith was. It was your faith that colored everything you did and every way you acted. You truly practiced what you preached in your devotion and in your love for everyone. This last Easter, when we were at breakfast, you said that Easter was your favorite holiday. You said "It is the highlight of the Christian calendar. Easter is more important than Christmas." You were incredibly happy and you thoroughly enjoyed the day that we had together with my family. We even talked about how great the weekend was as we drove home that evening. You felt loved by family and God.

You loved to be touched. You loved to be kissed. I would wrap my arms around your waist and hold you close. You always said you loved my shoulders and the feeling of being held. When we were looking at pictures for your memorials, I particularly loved the ones where me or the kids had you in our arms, those were the ones in which you looked happiest. I loved holding you. I loved the feeling of your skin against my hands. You made me feel like your protector, your sweetheart, your husband. As you lay in the hospital bed, I kissed your forehead, hoping to see the smile you always gave. When you didn't smile, my heart sunk at the pain of knowing you had gone. I touched your hands, hoping for the familiar squeeze. I just held onto your hand, crying, wishing it was all a nightmare, hoping to wake up. I will never forget your touch, ever.

Sherri, you taught me so much. I've only scratched the surface in this short letter. I want you to know that I love you, I've always loved you and I always will. I am grateful that I got a chance to say I love you on Sunday. I am grateful that we had such a peaceful and perfect day and that I knew you loved me and you knew I loved you. I know you are in a far better place. The only consolation that I have in this whole dismal business is I know you are at peace.

I love you sweetheart

Thursday, April 01, 2010

We Have to Stand Up for Each Other

"We have to stand up for each other"

Not the typical opening for my blog updates but I thought it was so poignant, I had to use it. My friend Kaval wrote that to me after I sent my last update about Bob's fight against non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. It couldn't be more true.

I was talking with my friend Sven about life, the universe and relationships. Sven was talking about how the movie Up in the Air really hit the nail on the head with its theme that life is richer with friendships. It may seem obvious, but all of us get caught up in the chaos of everyday life and we may lose sight of the temporal nature of friendships. What Sven and Kaval so simply illustrated is that you have to treat friendships like treasures and part of that obligation is, as Kaval put it, "you have to stand up for each other."

Which leads me to fighting cancer. We all know someone that has fought cancer. Not necessarily a blood cancer, but we have friends and loved ones that have fought and sometimes, succumbed, to these diseases. The thing about it is, it won't just go away. It takes research. Research takes funding. Research funding comes from people that care, people that have the means to help, and people that are willing to stand up for another.

I choose to raise money to fight cancer because it's my way of standing up for my friends, loved ones, and for people whom I haven't ever met. If you see someone harming your friends or family, you will step in to stop it; fighting cancer is like stepping forward to stop the mugger from harming your friends. So, please join me and stand up and fight against blood cancers by visiting my donation page at

Last time I wrote about Bob and his impending stem cell transplant. I realize I can not even come close to communicating the ordeal as his wife Leah does. I've never met her, but my heart goes out to her. Here is her latest update on her blog Go there. Read it.

Twenty-One Years Coming To An End

April 8, 1989. I had just returned to campus in Chico from spring break in Ensenada, Mexico.

Tan, rested, ready to party, my roommate and I headed out for a night on the town.

Bob and I met that night. Fell in love that night. Haven't been apart since that night.

After college, we got married. We had two beautiful children. We bought a house. We took vacations.

We lived.

We loved.

And now, I have to figure out how to do this without him --without the other part of me.

Without my We.

As I lie on this godforsaken chofa bed in a hospital room Bob won't get to leave, I can imagine millions of scenarios, but none of them are my life without my husband. None are my children without their father.

And this precarious position between keeping him comfortable and having him coherent is a level of hell Dante neglected to mention.

I used to worry about children not coming with instruction manuals. Now, I wish there was one for life and death.

This is Easter and Passover week. For many of you it's a time of faith, a time of miracles. Please remember Bob, his wife, and their family in your thoughts and prayers.

What am I doing?

I forgot to mention in my first post that I was doing the Death Ride this year...again. The Death Ride, for those of you new to this blog, is a one-day, 129 mile, bicycle ride over 5 mountain passes in the Sierra Nevadas south of Lake Tahoe. The Death Ride is an 11,000 calorie burning epic ride that takes every ounce of energy to complete. Cyclists do this ride because they're really fit or they don't know any better - I fall into the latter category. As if it it weren't hard enough, I started a new job in mid-February and I have the additional challenge of sacrificing training time for commuting and new-job-get-up-to-speed time. Unwisely, my only real training is on the weekends and I am getting further behind as it gets increasingly difficult. But you know, I just have to do it. It's nothing compared to what the victims of blood borne cancers are enduring.

We have to stand up for each other


visit my fundraising site at:
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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Here We Go Again

My alarm went off Saturday morning, February 27th at 5:15am. I could hear the wind blowing the rain against the window screens. I saw by the thermometer on the window, it was 48 degrees outside, definitely hypothermia conditions. I wasn't supposed to be doing this. I had started a new job two weeks ago; the economy is dismal; I wasn't planning to participate in Team in Training this year. I just didn't have the time or energy to do this. As with many plans, life seems to get in the way.

Earlier this month, I learned that my friend, former co-worker, and fantasy football league compadre, Bob Norling had a recurrence of the non-Hodgkins lymphoma he had been treated for last year. Similar to leukemia, lymphoma is a blood cancer. Bob has two early teenage kids and has been married for 15 years. Bob is an excellent systems engineer, he races motorcycles, he isn't too good at fantasy football (at least not in the DLFC league), and everyone that knows him thinks he is a genuinely good guy. He's smart and he's funny in a low key manner. Currently he is going through chemotherapy and this week his will have a stem cell transplant. All hopes and prayers are with him as he waits for the stem cells to do their jobs.

When I found out about Bob I called my friend Barb at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and I told her I wanted to enroll as a fundraising participant with this year's Death Ride team. The season had already started but she found a way to get me on the team. I pledged to raise $4000 to help fight Leukemia and Lymphoma.

Over the years I've talked to many of you who have had loved ones who have been affected by cancer. And every time I hear your stories, I choke up with emotion. My heart goes out to all of you and I just feel that this is a fight I have to tackle.

As I was getting ready on Saturday morning, I had to pause and think as I was putting on my Team in Training jersey. I thought about the drivers and pedestrians that would see my new teammates and me wearing our TnT jerseys as we are riding in the rain and cold. There's only one reason do to this, because we want to people to be aware of our mission.

So, here we go again. I'll be writing about my training, I have a few more stories from France (everybody loves Roy), I'll tell you more about Bob, and I have a few more surprises. Please help by sponsoring me. Think about the people you know, people like Bob, people like my late mother-in-law Margie, people like my friend Stacy, people like my co-worker Leonard, and my family friend Dan, all who have battled blood cancers. These diseases will only be defeated with the support of all of us.

You can follow my stories or get caught up on past posts at

Thank you for your support