Sunday, December 26, 2010


As many of you know I had surgery recently. Now this does not seem as if it would neither be at all fun, nor anything I would want to blog about. I want to correct those misconceptions.

Upon arrival at the hospital, I was ushered into pre-op, which is short for “the room where you are prepared for surgery”, and was instructed to take off all my clothes and put on a gown. Now anyone who has worn a hospital gown already knows how hilarious this is, those gowns never fit, have snaps in all the wrong places, and flap in the breeze - rendering any sense of modesty useless.

Once I had the gown on, a seemingly endless procession of medical professionals began to parade in and out of my room. Starting with the pre-op nurse. “Good morning Mr. Distaffen.”  she cheerfully greeted, “I am Clara, I will be your nurse while you get ready for surgery.” Now I think it is wonderful that each person in this procession introduced themselves and explained what they will be doing during my stay at the hospital. However, not wanting to be undone, I responded to each as professionally as is possible while wearing a silly gown that air-conditioned parts of my anatomy that do not normally experience air-conditioning, “Good morning, my name is Rob and I will be your patient today.” was my chosen response.  This exchange occurred with the pre-op nurse, the operating room nurse, the anesthesiologist, the surgeon, the unit nurses, the patient care techs, and some guy who was lost and looking for directions, “Hello, my name is Bill and I am lost, can you tell me the way to the post-pre-op-recovery-discharge unit?”

Finally, it was time for surgery and since I was “Fasttrack” patient, I went straight to surgery without anesthesia.

From all the stories I have heard about surgeries, going to surgery fully awake was neither what I expected nor a pleasant prostpect. My terror was allayed once I actually reached the operating room and was greeted once again by the anesthesiologist, who explained that all the anesthesia would be administered right in the operating room. She then placed a mask over my face and instructed me to breath normally as she gave me oxygen to breath. I thought that is what I breathed normally, but I was sadly mistaken. Only a certified medical professional can give you oxygen to breath, the rest of the time you breathe air. The difference between air and oxygen is simple, air is free and you can get it anywhere, from anyone. Only a medical professional can give you oxygen and it is expensive.

In keeping with being a Fasttrack patient, I awoke before surgery was completely finished. I vaguely remember them taking screws from my head and hearing shouts of ‘restrain him’. One thing I remember distinctly is a bead of sweat trickling down my face. I hate beads of sweat trickling down my face and I wanted to wipe it off. The doctors and nurses were unconcerned with my beads of sweat, they were more concerned with my loose screws. Unfortunately they did not tighten my loose screw, they just removed it completely.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's all in the genes

No humorous post today, but something that I have been thinking on for a while, and maybe have finally wrapped my brain around.

I recently saw a segment on television news about a scientist who has isolated part of the human genome sequence that predicts whether a person will be faithful or not. At first this announcement, and ones just like it pointing to genes for homosexuality or to commit violent acts, disturbed me greatly. After all, as a person who believes in the inspiration of scripture, the sinful nature of man, and the grace and mercy of God, I was at a loss as to how to reconcile this genetic explanation for what I believe to be a theological/spiritual condition of the heart.

As I considered this question, my mind wandered over to Romans 5 verses 12 and following. In this passage Paul lays out the sinfulness of man, and how it is passed down from Adam, the first man to sin, to everyone born after him. For years I have heard preachers and teachers explain this passage as a theological explanation of human nature and how the sinful nature is imparted from generation to generation. Consider, however, this passage as an explanation of genetics. Adam sinned, and the result of sin, death, is passed to all men, for all have sinned. The passage of sinful nature from Adam onward, as explained in Romans 5, is not a theological mystery, it is rather a genetic certainty.

It is exciting to read the words in verse 15, “But the gift is not like the trespass.” and verse 16, “Again, the gift of God is not like the result of one mans sin:” The trespass and it’s result is death, and it is handed down to all men. The gift however, came after the trespass, bringing justification and grace. After the trespass came the gift. The trespass or sinful nature is handed down genetically, the gift is not handed down from one person to the next genetically, it is given from Jesus to each one who believes, spiritually.

In fact, Paul uses the term ‘natural man’ to describe a person before receiving Christ as savior, and ‘spiritual man’ to describe a person after receiving Christ as savior. For Paul it was abundantly clear that sinful nature is a natural thing. It occurs genetically, although the understanding of genetics was not as precise as it is now, Paul still used the concept to describe how all became sinners. “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” vs 18.

What joy and excitement, even though I am a broken and sinful person - right down to my DNA, God gives me victory over that sinful nature, those sinful genes, in the most miraculous of ways, through the gift of righteousness, of new life, through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Early to bed

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
Benjamin Franklin

I have to confess I do not like rising early. In fact, working two jobs, I usually am getting to bed when all of you early risers are rising. When my wife and I have an activity planned for the day, she will often ask, “What time are you getting up tomorrow?” To which I gleefully reply, “Oh, about the crack of noon.”

I do admire those who can wake up at the crack of dawn, perhaps it is years of hearing both the esteemed Mr Franklin quote, or perhaps it is years of hearing my mother say, “If you don’t go to bed early, you will never wake up in the morning.” That has caused me to feel great guilt over my late morning somnolence. Then of course when I can go to bed early, I am just not tired.

Therefore, to be sure I am none of the three things Mr. Franklin postulated a person would be if they went to bed and then got up early, I have just endured my third encounter with the Blue Coated Gang. For those who are not familiar with this particular gang, their modus operandi is to entice you to some fancy place, with promises of great hospital-ity, then one of their members proceeds to render you unconscious, while the aforementioned promiser attacks you with a very sharp knife. When the entire ordeal is over they have the gall to submit a bill to your insurance company for the attack! During two of these attacks I have awakened early, only to be rewarded with the knock-em-out gang member holding me down and reapplying his or her knockout punch.

As for the second item, wealth, I submit to you again that I am working two jobs. Neither job pays spectacularly well. So I work, and eat, and work, and sleep, and get the general gist of my day. I am most firmly convinced that there must be another gang of people who simply hand out money to early risers. They skulk about on dark streets, looking for lamps to turn on in the houses of unsuspecting victims. When a light turns on they pull a ski mask over their head and dive into action, running up to the house, shoving the door open, and if it is locked they simply slam a bag of coins into it, to force it open. They hurtle towards the light, until they find their early-rising victim, unto whom they impart fists-full of cash. Then they depart just as quickly and quietly, like the sound of a C-note hitting the floor. I am told that sound is barely audible, but cannot verify that from personal experience. I tried it with a dollar bill, then tried to imagine what it would sound like one hundred times noisier, but I do not believe that was an accurate assessment.

 Lastly, we come to wisdom. No one has ever accused me of being wise. Except when my quick wit, and delightful repartee start to expose themselves and someone says to me, “are you some sort of wise guy?”

Thursday, December 16, 2010


USA Today recently carried an article about the service libraries are offering to the homeless. I applaud the efforts of those fine institutions to provide services to the community. The article notes that libraries have long been a safe haven from the cold and elements to homeless individuals.

However, that is the reason that I have limited my use of my local public library. I am a vain person, and find it very uncomfortable to show up at my library to look over the selection of books, only to see the knowing glances, and hearing the surreptitious whisperings of librarians and patrons alike. “Aha, there is a homeless fellow now. I wonder what services we can offer him to help ease his pain. To help him engage community based services. To find appropriate housing.”

Finally, one of the library staff musters the courage to engage me directly in conversation. “Can I be of assistance?” she timidly inquires.

“Yes” I reply, “I am looking for a book on subatomic particles. Specifically quarks.”

The look on her face tells the whole story, she is not only convinced that I am homeless, but she also now questions my mental health. I am not sure if it's the request for a physics text, or her confusion over what she perceives as a reference to the TV show from the 1970's, Mork and Mindy.

She scurries off, while I keep scrolling through physics titles on the database, searching for just the right book. After a few moments, she returns with a stack of pamphlets, a cup of coffee, and a sandwich. “Here are some resources for looking for jobs and housing.” She informs me, positively beaming at her chance to help society's less fortunate.

I stare blankly, but thank her for the information. I sip the coffee and munch the sandwich when the perfect title pops up on the screen, Quarks; the stuff of matter and I wonder to myself, does it matter that I am not homeless and still eating someone elses sandwich?

Friday, November 26, 2010


The proliferation of techno-speak in my house has caused this writer great consternation and confusion.  Blackberrys and apples are not just fruits anymore. Opening a window on my pc does not shed any more light on the subject. Rebooting has nothing to do with putting boots back on when I want to go outside again. I am never sure whether I should double click my mouse or set a trap for it. 

Add to this confusion, three teenagers of the female flavor, all of whom are taking different foreign languages. The eldest takes Spanish, in case she ever visits Spain. The youngest takes French, because "that's what mommy took when she was in school." Finally, the middlest girl takes Latin, in case the Latvians ever invade the U.S. These different linguistic lingerings make for spirited, if not perfectly unintelligible, conversation around the dinner table. In truth, the three of them have taken to addressing me as Padre, or Pod for short, which is much preferred to old man, pops, or even, my personal favorite, bearded buffoon. 

Then there is the Internet, this huge world of information at your fingertips. The biggest offender in the wanton wholesale dissemination of information is google. Of course, Google is the ubiquitous term for 'the' Internet search engine. During the course of one’s day if a question arises regarding some piece of trivia, such as whom the 18th president of the United States was, or something of more importance, like what his middle name was, we flippantly announce, “Let’s google it.” When I was in Grade school, if a student was unclear as to the spelling of 'onomatopoeia', the teacher would say, “Look it up in the dictionary.” Of course, today we visit a website for the spelling. 

One particularly rough day, after trying to make a little over 3 apple pi's and a few quarts of blackberry whine, I was ready for a java break, so I announced to my daughters in my deepest, most impressive voice, "I pod" then settled into my favorite seat, "docking station."