This one's gonna go on for a while. Fair warning.
Ever since my diagnosis, I've been counting my blessings, especially when it comes to the people in my life. I've mentioned this before in this journal, probably multiple times, but my wife and I had no idea how loved we are. We had no clue about the huge network of prayer and support that would literally spring up overnight to help us. It's often said that in times like these, you find out who your friends are. We have seen how true that is since last July.
You could title this entry "Counting My Blessings #4 - My Friends." But that would be an impossible one to write. There's no way I could possibly name all of my friends and tell the things they've done for me over the course of my life. None of us would live long enough for that. Instead, in this entry, I just want to talk about some people who have meant a lot to us over the course of the last few months. This not a comprehensive list, so please don't feel bad if you don't see your name here. Your turn is coming.
Let me start by thanking all of you who read my journal regularly. It means more to me than you can know when anyone tells me that they read it. When they tell me they think it's a good read, that really boosts my spirits, because I don't expect that. I don't expect people to like my songs, much less my prose. CaringBridge provides reports that I can download and see different breakdowns and stats regarding who's been here. I can see all registered visitors, journal commenters, and guestbook signers, among other things. Today I looked at a list of those who chose to receive notifications when I post a new entry. I think that's probably the best way to gauge how many are reading it regularly. It's very encouraging to look at that list. I can't thank all of you enough for reading this journal. It seems to have become my life's work these days.
Now for some acknowledgements. I haven't won an Oscar, so I'll try not to go on too long thanking too many people.
Nancy Wardell is a daily reader and frequent commenter here. She and her husband, Brent, have also been our best friends for more than 30 years. Nancy is one of the most capable and competent people I've ever known. If you want your organization run well, put Nancy in charge of it. If you want something built well, have Brent build it. If you want friends who will stick with you through thick and thin for a lifetime, get to know Nancy and Brent.
Nancy and Brent are animal lovers, like we are. We have two dogs and two cats. They have three dogs and two cats. They also have a house out in the country with lots of property for dogs to roam. So whenever we go out of town, we leave our dogs at the "Hotel Wardell." They love it there! Our oldest, dog wants to live there. Whenever we leave their house, he runs and hides so he won't have to go home. Our younger dog is always ready to go home, but not the old guy. He wants to be Nancy and Brent's dog. One day soon, he'll get to stay there permanently. Nancy and Brent have a memorial garden on their property, and they've offered to let us bury our pets' ashes there if we'd like to. We haven't taken them up on that yet, mainly because it's so expensive to have an animal's ashes cremated separately. But we will do it for Ziggy, so he can be buried in Maxine's Garden.
One real measuring stick of our friendship, for me, has been the fact that, though we don't see one another on a regular basis as a part of our regular routine, we make sure to get together once a month. We meet for dinner and Rook, alternating at each other's homes. We make sure not to let it go for long stretches with one simple trick that Sharon and I have never been able to duplicate with any of our other friends. When we're about to go home, we get out our calendars first and set a date for the next one. What a concept! That way, we make sure to see each other on a regular basis. If we hadn't been doing that for the last 30+ years, I don't think we'd still be best friends now. If there's somebody that you don't see regularly, but want to maintain a close friendship with, I recommend that simple trick.
But what has really encouraged me over the last few months is Nancy's constant presence here, at my journal. She was one of the first to mention CaringBridge to me. So thanks for everything, guys! I know you'll be there for us like you always have been.
OK, I won't go on as long about anyone else as I did about them. But when you've been best friends with someone for more than three decades, there's a lot to say, and I didn't even scratch the surface.
Sandi Labo is the professional therapist who I mentioned in my entry titled, "Becoming." The hour long conversation we had at a recent Christmas party was incredibly helpful to me. Unlike most of the others I'll mention in this post, Sandi and I don't know each other well. In fact, we hardly know each other at all. At least we didn't until two weeks ago. But that conversation really helped me. It opened me up for a spiritual breakthrough the next morning that I also talk about in that post. Thank you, Sandi, for taking the time to talk to me, and being a friend to me before we were really friends.
I need to pause here and ask everyone who reads this to pray for Sandi and her family. Her dad passed away suddenly on December 8th, only three days after we had our conversation. There is a GoFundMe page set up to help Sandi's family. Please donate if you can.
Tiffany Berland is like a daughter to us. I first met Tiffany when she was in high school. I heard her sing in church and was very impressed. She had a very mature voice for her age, and a really good musical ear. When she graduated from high school, she chose to go to college in Nashville, which impressed me even more. It showed she was serious about making it in the Christian music business. So I felt led to help her if I could. I offered to let her record a demo in my home studio that she could give to record labels in Nashville. I was convinced she was going places. But then, I was convinced I was going places too. And we both were going places, just not where we thought we were going!
That recording session began a lifelong friendship. Really, we consider Tiff more of a family member than anything. Mom and Dad, I know you didn't know you had an unofficial grandchild out here in Denver, but her name is Tiffany Berland. She's married with two kids now. I am so old!
I know Tiffany thinks my wife and I did something for her last Saturday when we sang in her dad's Christmas service at a retirement center where he serves as pastor, but she was really doing something for us. As I've mentioned before, we have no responsibilities at church this Christmas season. We're very glad and relieved about that, but we didn't realize that there was something missing for us this December. The opportunity to participate in a low key Christmas service without a major time commitment was a great blessing for us. We both remarked on the way home how we felt like our Christmas was complete now, after having done that. And to be able to celebrate that with someone who is so dear to us was very special. Thanks for the invitation, Tiff!
Derek Donnell and Amber Berry are new friends of ours. Also dog people. We met on the patio at a Wahoo's Fish Taco near our homes last April. "Playing summer," as Derek puts it. We each had our dogs, so we struck up a conversation, and we've been fast friends ever since. We're not sure how it happened, since we come from very different worlds and backgrounds, and we're far apart in age. They're young and we're old. We'll just put it like that. But somehow, an instant chemistry formed between us, and it's been an incredible blessing for us. As we get older, it becomes more difficult to make new friends. At least that's been the case for us, and I think it's pretty applicable as a general rule. We tend to make our closest friendships when we're young. So meeting Derek and Amber has been an unexpected boon to us. We're so happy to have met them.
Dave Williams has been a friend and pastor to me during this time. Dave was the sound guy for a Christian country band I used to be in, but he's a pastor by trade and at heart. During this time when I've needed a pastor but haven't really had one, Dave has made an real effort to call me on a regular basis, share scriptures, pray with me, and counsel me. When I was at his church recently, he made sure to counsel me about some serious issues I needed to face. He pointed out a conversation I needed to have with Sharon that I hadn't had yet. We had that conversation the next day. His church, Broomfield Assembly Of God, has been incredibly supportive to us. Dave, Becky, and Broomfield AG, Thanks so much for your love, prayers, and support! Thanks for being the church to us.
Paul Kelley has been one of my best buddies since the late 80's. Paul and I formed a mutual admiration society when we first met because we were both self employed entrepreneurs. Paul told me then that he had never worked for anyone else. He and his business partner had decided in high school that they would never work for anyone else, but go into business together. They did that, and they run a successful business today. There was one time that Paul was an employee that I remember, however, and it speaks volumes about him. He decided many years ago that he wanted to know what it was like to work for someone else, so he got a job at Chili's. A successful businessman working in the kitchen at Chili's, "flippin' chickens," as he put it. He did it just to see how the other half lives, to make him a better boss. That's Paul.
His beautiful wife, Denise, is a cancer survivor. She's been great about giving me advice. She's the one who told me to make sure I get enough sleep. No doctor told me that. Paul and Denise have been a huge help to us in more ways than I can talk about here. But mainly, I just cherish Paul's friendship. We haven't been good about staying in contact over the last several years, but that's changing. There are certain friendships that, no matter how long it's been since you've seen them, when you do, you pick right up where you left off. That's how it is for Paul and me.
I've gone on too long, but I need to quickly mention a few more.
Everything I said about Paul Kelley also goes for Greg Jacyszyn. Except Greg doesn't own a sports turf company. But we have been very close friends, best buds in many ways, since 1991. Greg calls me about once a week to see how I'm doing and catch up. Greg is a singer like me, but he's still out there getting it done. Widely regarded as one of the best singers in town, and he is. As a matter of fact, when he's recording here, he's the second best singer in our house! :-) And I discovered him. At a battle of the bands at Bangles in 1991. All you old time Denver headbangers remember that place! I think my shoes are still sticky from that night. I sought Greg out after his band performed, and told him I'd like to have him record for me. I was doing song parodies for KBPI at the time, the station that sponsored the contest. We've been close friends ever since.
Coincidentally, I was able to take one friend with me to that battle of the bands where I met Greg. Who did I take? Paul Kelley.
Greg just called me while I was writing this. Just to check in on me. That's what I'm talking about. Almost every day a friend calls me to ask how I'm doing and encourage me. In times like these, we find out who our friends are.
Randy Mashburn, my best friend from college and my best man at our wedding, has been a great friend to us. It's been awesome reconnecting with Randy after all of these years.
You all have seen how the kindness, experience, wisdom and insight of Janice Reno-Heck has helped me through her comments in this journal. We're becoming better friends now than we ever were in high school. Thanks again, Janice!
Anona Cole and Bob and Linda Stewart have given us wise counsel and much love and support. When I need advice, Anona and Linda are two people I go to for it. Our church no longer exists, but our friendships will last forever.
I also want to thank the Thursday night Bible study at Horizon Community Church for their prayers and support. You all were a church to us when we really needed one.
There are too many others to mention in this post, but as I said earlier, it's the people in my life that I want you to know about. And at this time of year, it's all about the people in our lives. Starting Christmas Day, almost every day between Christmas and New Years, we have plans to do fun things with some of the friends I've mentioned here. I haven't even mentioned one of our closest friends in the whole world, Nikki Nielsen. She visits every year at Christmastime, and one of the highlights of every holiday season for us is the time we spend with her. This year she's spending the night! We can't wait.
Again, if your name wasn't mentioned here, don't feel bad! The internet ran out of space! And when I see you next, don't squirm if I decide to tell you how much I love you in front of everyone. That's what I do these days.
When you see your loved ones this week and next, don't wait or hesitate to tell them what they mean to you. You might not get another chance. It doesn't go without saying.