Category: Carrie-Anne (Page 1 of 13)

Rangers – Astros Pics

Carrie-Anne and I put the finishing touches on our summer vacation with a long weekend in the Bayou City. Of course, nobody plans a trip to Houston in July, but C-A had her one-year check up scheduled at M.D. Anderson. Yes, it’s been a full year since Carrie-Anne completed her last chemotherapy treatment and was pronounced cancer-free by our surgeons and doctors in Houston. The appointment¬† was already on the books and, as our great fortune would have it, the Rangers were also in Houston at the same time to play the Astros at Minute Maid Park. So, our one-day trip turned into a four-day trip so we could take in a pair of games in one of baseball’s best rivalries.

Upon our arrival in H-Town Thursday evening we encountered a significant hurricane-related issue: our hotel was without power and totally shut down. Five days after Beryl, and there were still almost a million people without electricity, including at our Hampton Inn. There was no one there to help us, no one to talk to about our reservations and next steps, no one answering any phones–just two handwritten signs on the doors that said “NO POWER.” We learned over the next three hours that lots of hotels in the Houston area were down and the ones that were operational were all full with Houston residents looking for some relief and utility workers who had streamed into town to help restore the power. We got on two waiting lists and finally secured a room for Thursday evening at one place and for the next two nights at another.

Praise our God, C-A’s appointments were great. All clear again! If nothing happens of concern–it shouldn’t–we’ll do two more of these over the next two years and be totally done with all of it. Thank our Lord! Her surgeons and oncologists have been so wonderful to us, a true source of encouragement and confidence through this whole thing. We are grateful to God that we got hooked into M.D. Anderson the way we did. We praise him for C-A’s healing and recovery and good health. And we continue to pray faithfully for all those who are dealing with this horrible disease.








Before and after the baseball games, we did some sight-seeing around downtown Houston, mainly around the convention center and the shopping district on Main Street. We took in some of the funky art around the Chase Tower, ate at the downtown Pappasito’s (of course!), and found Biggio’s, a perfectly spread-out two-story sports bar that bears the name of the legendary Houston Hall of Famer.

As for the baseball games, we scored some wonderful seats about 30 rows up from the third base on deck circle and experienced a blowout win by the ‘Stros and a dramatic extra-innings win by the Rangers. We saw the Rangers’ season-long offensive woes up close and personal–nobody on this team outside of Semien and Seager are doing anything. Whereas the booing seemed to motivate Adolis Garcia last year, it’s having the opposite effect now–the Rangers playoff MVP looks lost. Andrew Heaney gave up a couple of bad homeruns and Rangers-killer Jose Altuve did it to us again. We wore our rally caps dejectedly for most of Friday’s game, but then delighted on Saturday when Nathaniel Lowe won the game with a two-out RBI single in the 10th. This was right after Carrie-Anne got really worked up screaming for Mauricio Dubon to get tossed for arguing an overturned call at first base in the 9th. Big Game Nate did what he needed to do to keep the Astros in check and the bullpen was marvelous, highlighted by Yates’ 1-2-3 10th. The win was truly satisfying and led to some unexpected celebrating with several tables of other Rangers fans at Biggio’s after the game.








We listened to Sunday’s rubber match on the drive back to Midland, a Rangers win that featured another good start by Mad Max and two two-run homers by Josh Smith. Texas took the series, evened up the Silver Boot standings, and heads to the All-Star break one game back of Houston and five behind the M’s in the AL West. And maybe with some momentum. Hopefully.



Chicago Pics

Since she’s an academic counselor now and not a teacher, Carrie-Anne only gets two weeks off during the summers. So, if we’re going to do anything or go anywhere, it has to be the first two weeks of July. This year we decided to escape the heat and spent five days up in Chicago.

C-A’s never been to Chicago. I’ve been nine times as part of the two-year Transforming Community program I went through in 2018-2019 and just love the whole city. I know some of my affection for the Windy City is certainly tied to the spiritual growth I experienced and the relational changes that happened with me and our Lord during my retreats there; that was a significantly important time for me and for my ministry–truly transformative. All that is connected with my heart and my head to Chicago, no doubt. But I also just really love a big, bustling, diverse, busy, city with a million things to see and do.

We didn’t do a million things in Chicago this past week. But almost.

I’m mainly just posting a ton of pictures here today. I should have kept up with this while we were on the trip so it wouldn’t be this massive picture dump. But we got up early and stayed out late during those five days. And had an incredibly wonderful time. As always, click on the pic to get the full size.






We mostly did the touristy things one does while in Chicago. We stayed at the Cambria Hotel downtown, at the corner of Randolph and Dearborn in the middle of the theater district, because most of the really cool stuff is downtown.






We spent a whole morning at Millennium Park and took all the requisite photos at the iconic “Bean”: the reflections of the downtown skyline, the selfie, the squatty pics underneath the structure, and the zoomed out portrait.








And the splash pad. We didn’t get wet. But we stayed long enough to watch both of the huge face installations spew water on all the kids at least four or five times.








NASCAR was in Chicago over the weekend which made it difficult to walk from Millennium Park to Grant Park along the shores of Lake Michigan. We managed to weave our way around barricades and through the crowds of race fans trying to get a glimpse of their favorite cars and drivers as they unloaded their vehicles and only got flipped off and cussed at once by a cyclist for walking in a bike path.

Of course, we also spent an entire afternoon at the famous Chicago Art Institute where we gazed at the painting that got Cameron so locked up in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and took the somber selfies in front of American Gothic.







You’ve noticed that C-A has straightened her hair. She took the Christmas break to transition from the do-rag to her Q-Tip with a headband thing. And now she’s using her summer break to make the move back to how she looked pre-cancer. The way her hair came back so curly in those super-tight ringlets was surprising and I really thought she was rocking that look pretty well. But I think she feels more like herself now. And she does look beautiful, doesn’t she?








We saw Jersey Boys at the Mercury Theater and laughed our lips off at Second City. I don’t know Jenelle’s last name, but it was her last night at Second City–she’s been part of the group there since 2018—and I promise you she’s about to show up on Saturday Night Live. Or something.¬† I don’t know what’s next for her, but it’s going to be big. And we saw her on her last night at Second City.






What else? We spent an evening at Navy Pier and took in the fireworks there over the lake. We did the mandatory architectural cruise on the Chicago River and spent almost all day on the really cool downtown river walk. And we visited the Shedd Aquarium where we fed and petted stingrays and talked back and forth with some Beluga whales.








Luckily, the Cubs were in town so we watched the local boys blank the Halos at the friendly confines of 110-year-old Wrigley Field. Of course, I enjoyed a traditional Chicago-style hot dog, complete with mustard, tomatoes, onions, sport peppers, that neon-green relish, and the pickle on a poppy-seed bun. Carrie-Anne calls it a salad with a weenie. She’ll have no part of it.








It was easy to root for the Cubs because they were playing one of the Rangers’ rivals from the AL West. And we delighted as the out of town scoreboard on the ivy-covered walls lit up with Rangers runs from their blowout win over the Rays. We stood and sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame as it was led by some B-actor I’d never heard of. And we watched in amazement as 25,000 fans locked arms and swayed back and forth together and sang “Go Cubs Go.” Man, a Cubs game is special. It’s a truly communal thing that I’m afraid could never be replicated in a place like Arlington.






Oh, and I haven’t mentioned yet that we ate a lot of pizza. Lou Malnati’s was at the top of my list and we made it there at the end of our first full day. Malnati’s gives you the deepest deep dish you can find and it never disappoints. We also got Chicago-style pizza at a place near our hotel called Parlor Pizza Bar and at a joint around the corner from Second City called Professor Pizza. We dined at a couple of historic downtown Chicago pubs and got a fabulous breakfast one morning at Yolk.







We’re home now, but only long enough to mow the yard and do some quick laundry before we take off for Houston. It’s been one full year since Carrie-Anne’s last chemo treatment, twelve months since we rang the bell and my wife was pronounced cancer-free. The first of our annual checkups at M.D. Anderson is set for this Friday; we’re meeting with the cancer surgeon at 9:15 and the oncologist at 11:00. As it turns out, the Rangers are in Houston this weekend to play the Astros, so our one day trip became a two-day trip. And then yesterday it became a three-day trip as we decided to enjoy two Rangers-Astros games instead of one. It’s a vacation! We have to!



Does It Feel Wet Outside?

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to Ralph Strangis…

All our church ministers and staff, all the Opportunity Tribe kids, and the Mission Agape folks just spent an hour or so enjoying the eclipse together. We chewed Eclipse brand gum, ate lots of Oreos (Ryan concocted some far-fetched eclipse connection), and generally cracked eclipse jokes, made fun of each other, and laughed the whole time. Kim brought out her mystical Mayan stone, Pam produced an impressive array of shadow-casting kitchen utensils and disco balls, and Jim asked several times when it was appropriate to leave an eclipse party and not seem rude. J.E. wanted us to change into our Nikes and track suits (at times, it did look like we were all waiting to be lifted away), we all overplayed the darkness and cool down factor, and at one point Dan asked if it felt “wet” outside. I must have heard and/or overheard fourteen explanations of refraction and at least that many descriptions of how this eclipse is or is not similar to what we experienced back in October.

Some of us were disappointed that the dogs didn’t speak in tongues and no birds dive-bombed the parking lot. Turns out the animals don’t really freak out as much as the humans.


The NCAA men’s basketball tournament concludes tonight, but Carrie-Anne clinched our family bracket Saturday when UConn took down Alabama to advance to the Final. As soon as the clock hit 0:00 on that game, C-A sent her little victory bitmoji through our family text, much to almost everyone’s delight. If UConn wins tonight, Whitney will finish in second place. If it’s Purdue, then Valerie’s husband David takes the silver. I need Purdue to win just so I won’t come in last. My March Sadness began weeks ago.

As for our office bracket here at GCR, if UConn wins, Tim and Cory will finish 1-2. If Purdue wins the title, Kristin takes our office contest and J.E. comes in second.


We have turned MidWeek into MixWeek at GCR by combining all our Wednesday night kids programs, youth worship, and adult classes into one big “Running the Race” series. We kicked it off last Wednesday with GCR Olympics, featuring a massive Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament and an egg-throwing contest. The young people led our church in worship–we sang their songs their way– and then we spent 30-minutes or so mixing it up together with the games.

The idea this past Wednesday was to partner up with someone at least 20 years older or 20 years younger and compete against other similar pairs. By the end of the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament, we had half the church on one side of the gym and the other half on the other side, all cheering for their representative in the final match. Same deal with the egg-toss. Then we gave out medals and ate popsicles together.








This week, the young people will again lead us in worship, and then we’re going to spend 30-minutes or so in some formative Christian practices. We’ll have nine or ten prayer stations and Scripture stations in and around the Worship Center–some ancient practices and some brand new ways to engage God together in Word and Prayer.

The overarching goal is to intentionally put our children in front of our older adults and for our older adults to pour into our children so we can all learn what God wants us to learn from each other. We are putting ourselves in situations with our church’s children so God can teach us what we need to learn and change in us what needs to be changed to become more like them. And more like him.


I’m not going to write anything about the Rangers. Not yet. Out of the gate, they look like they’re going to be an even better team than they were last year. But I don’t want to jinx anything. For now, I’m putting all my energies into the Stars and their promising Stanley Cup pursuits. Lankford can keep hitting 100-mile-per-hour lasers off his bat, the Rangers can keep averaging seven runs per game, and Bochy can keep whispering into his bullpen. I’m not going to say anything about it yet. Go Stars.


Over the Christmas break, I bought a two-dollar Whoopee cushion with the four-million tickets we collected during a family trip to Cinergy. Now Whitney is pressing the cushion every time a player misses a free throw during the NCAA tournament. Every game. Every miss. “Pppphhhhrrrrrppphhhh!!” It makes me giggle. It makes Whitney laugh so hard she can’t breathe. It wears Carrie-Anne plumb out.




Cry Eagles Cry

The Cowboys demolished the Eagles at AT&T Stadium Sunday night and I was there to see it all. Our good friends, Stan and Kelly Conley, have season tickets and they graciously drug us along to what may be the defining win for Dallas this season. It was the Cowboys’ first victory over a team that currently has a winning record, it was the first time in years the Philly offense was held without a touchdown, it put the Cowboys into a tie for first place in the NFC East, and it was a blowout. It makes me wonder what organ Mike McCarthy is going to have removed this week.

This was the first Cowboys game for Carrie-Anne at the new stadium — she’s been to two or three college games there — and she gave it everything she had for the full three hours. In fact, when I received a text from a friend asking where I was sitting so he could look for me on TV, I replied, “I’m on the 30-yard-line, behind the Cowboys bench, ten rows up, sitting next to a crazy lady waving a towel.”

For Cowboys fans, there was plenty to be waving towels about. Dallas scored on just about every possession, their outstanding kicker outscored the Philly offense by himself, and the Dallas defense held the Eagles to zero touchdowns. It was the kind of signature win that’s been missing from the Cowboys 2023 portfolio. But this was a no-doubter. From the moment Philadelphia won the coin toss and chose to give the ball to the Cowboys at home, I felt like I was in trouble. That’s a bad call. And the Eagles never recovered.

We had a blast. Our youngest daughter, Carley, drove down from Flower Mound to meet us for a pre-game dinner at Pappasito’s.¬† We’re next. They kept assuring us we were next. Stan kept us laughing and everyone around us wondering with his off the wall comments. You can’t ask the waitress at Pappasito’s if they sell hot dogs. You can’t ask the ticket taker at the season-ticket holders VIP parking lot if they take cash. You can’t be wearing Cowboys gear and approach three other people in Cowboys gear in the airport the next morning if they went to the game and, when they say “yes,” then ask, “do you know who won?” You can’t. But Stan can.

I giggled at Michael Irvin’s pre-game hype speech on the giant video board. I gave Too Tall Jones a personal standing ovation when he was introduced during the first quarter. I expressed to anyone who would listen my righteous disdain for the Cowboys color-rush all-white uniforms. We all took turns imitating Dak’s “Here we go!” with various levels of success and attention from those near us. I marveled at Brandon Aubrey’s 59 and 60 yard field goals that would have been good from another ten yards out. I shook my head in disgust at the valuable piece of the puzzle Jake Ferguson is becoming. I kept waiting for McCarthy to do something really dumb — he never did. And I realized that my season prediction for this Cowboys team is in some serious jeopardy.






The only way they finish 10-7 is if they lose all of the last four games of the season. At Buffalo, at Miami, against the Lions at home, and then at Washington. If any team could find a way to lose four straight, it would be the Cowboys, especially with three of them on the road. But I’m losing hope. I needed Dallas to lose Sunday night. And they looked as good as they’ve looked all year against a really good opponent.

If Dallas gets that 11th regular season win in the next four weeks, I’m going to have to buy Danny and Claire Brock dinner at the Wall Street Grill. He keeps texting me the menu, zoomed in on the appetizers.



Last Go ‘Round

One year ago this week, Carrie-Anne and I met with our doctors at M.D. Anderson in Houston for the first time after her breast cancer diagnosis. Now, after 12 months, 16 chemotherapy treatments at the Allison Center here in Midland, eight trips to H-Town, and three surgeries, we’re done. It is finished. Over. Yesterday’s last reconstructive surgery went well and we couldn’t be more thankful. Thankful to God, thankful for our friends and family, thankful for healing and peace, thankful for the good people our Lord has placed in front of us every step of the way.

When we got to Houston Sunday afternoon, we did what we always do: drove immediately to Pappasito’s for dinner. Actually, we go to Pappasito’s if we’re anywhere near one and we’ve been to the one across from NRG Stadium eight times. The Texans had just completed their crazy win over the Cardinals and the place was packed with Texans fans in their Texans gear. It was fun to be in the middle of their celebration, talking about C.J. Stroud, congratulating them on their three-game winning streak. They were so giddy, nobody noticed C-A was wearing her Texas Rangers American League Championship t-shirt.

Well, one person noticed. The lady sitting at the table right behind us was wearing an Astros West Division Championship shirt that featured Alex Bregman’s quote about never knowing what would happen if Houston didn’t win the division. Obviously, these shirts were made and sold before the Rangers beat the Astros in the ALCS and seem a little silly to be wearing now in the aftermath of the Rangers World Series title. A friendly conversation was initiated between Carrie-Anne and this nice, but misguided woman, and a picture was taken to commemorate the exchange.

The surgery was yesterday morning and, again, it went perfectly. The doctors and nurses are over-the-top wonderful in every way and our experience was about as good as it could be. Carrie-Anne is super sore today — don’t make her laugh yet — and it’s going to take at least the rest of the week for her to walk straight up without pain. But this is one determined chick. Through this whole ordeal, not one part of It has gotten her down. She’s amazing, this woman. Her motto has become, “Whaddaya gonna do?” But she does it — all of it — with grace and grit, with incredible faith and strength. She’s beautiful in a million ways and more inspiring and magnificent every day.

Coincidentally, my sister Sharon and our brother-in-law Brent were at M.D. Anderson this morning for one of his lymphoma treatments, so we spent an hour or so with them today in the Mays building, four floors up from where C-A had her surgery 24 hours earlier. Brent has responded miraculously to his treatments — the doctors are telling him that the lymphoma is gone. And we praise God for that, too. Our Father is blessing us beyond anything we deserve and we are all so thankful.

It’s good to be home. It’s good that we get to sleep in a bit tomorrow. And it’s good that, by God’s grace, we’re on the other side of this thing.



The Good Group

Carrie-Anne and I went to her final oncology appointment at MD Anderson in Houston yesterday so everybody could look at her one more time and officially declare her cancer-free. Her two doctors must have said half a dozen times, “You are cancer-free. Your cancer is history. You do not have any cancer anymore,” as if to reinforce it in both our brains and our souls. “According to your doctors here,” they said, “we know you do not have cancer. The only way to prove it, is for you to come in once a year for five years so we can document it. But you do not have cancer.” They said many times that Carrie-Anne is in the “good group,” the group the comes in only for routine checks to confirm what they already know: she is cured.

And we thank God.

To help us celebrate, the Rangers completed a wild card sweep of the Rays in Tampa to advance to the ALDS. The timing could not have been more perfect. Carrie-Anne’s last appointment was scheduled for 1:00pm. They took her at about 12:15pm instead. We returned the rental car, took the shuttle to the airport, checked in, went through security, ran to Buffalo Wild Wings, and were seated in front of a large TV before the end of the first inning. I was wearing a Rangers shirt and we were both openly cheering for Texas in the middle of enemy territory as they dominated Tampa Bay and won their first playoff series since the ALCS in 2011. C-A jumped to her feet when the final out was recorded, securing the Rangers win. And, yes, there was some grumbling among the B-Dubs patrons. More than a couple of people reminded us that, in Houston, they only celebrate World Series wins.

We stayed in the restaurant long enough to watch one post-game interview of Josh Jung, then hustled to our gate where they had just announced boarding. The timing could not have been better.

Carrie-Anne has one more procedure related to her reconstruction set for November 20 in Houston. It’s a day surgery, and we should be home the next evening or the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving at the latest. And I don’t care who says it or how many times they keep saying it, I’ll never get tired of hearing people in white coats tell us she is cancer-free.



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