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“…my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:30)

Dear family and friends,

So I get a lot of calls, messages and conversations in which people say something like, “Hey, love the blog.  Good job.  Nice veins.  But setting aside all the e-positivity, how are you REALLY feeling?”  When this plays out in person, it’s followed either by an intense eye-to-eye stare (males) which I interpret to mean, “Don’t try to break eye contact.  I’m trying to discern whether you’re faking something;” or a head tilt with hush puppy eyes (women) which I interpret to mean, “I’m Kendra’s friend, you can tell lil’ ol’ me and I promise I won’t tell anybody other than these 40 ladies outside church who nominated me to come over and talk to you.”

While it is true that I am on to you people, I also am truly feeling fine.  This week I played pickup basketball with some of the kids and a Marine Corps buddy Jason (different than Karetas Brewing Jason) who came in from out of town to visit.  Guys named Jason are in the lead when it comes to out of town visitors.

We got haircuts in order to relive the glory days

Anyway, I’ve been putting pressure on myself to try to come up with some side effects I could tell you about just so you can elbow your spouse and say, “I told you so.”  But the side effects are so lame that it’s just an embarrassment to even mention them.  Just to keep you in suspense, I’m going to write a post about them some time next week.  Just kidding.  I’ll put them at the end of this post after I ramble on about other unrelated things.  (chuckles to self even after re-reading this)

I have to share a hilarious story about (Marine Corps) Jason and me.  He’s one of the first guys I met when I first became a Marine officer.  We went through a lot of training together, were stationed at Camp Pendleton together, and deployed to the Middle East together.  This was between the Gulf Wars, by the way, so it was a very different time to be in the military when compared to these last 15+ years.  We saw the world at about 13 miles an hour on a Marine transport ship.

We had the good fortune to have a port call in Bali on the way back from the Red Sea/Persian Gulf area.  Jason and I were “liberty buddies” when we pulled in to ports.

Indonesia was in its presidential election season at the time.  Bali had their favorite candidate, and campaign materials were everywhere.  Some campaign workers spotted Jason and me and saw the potential for two 6’4″ walking campaign billboards who were likely to intimidate any opposition.  They offered us red campaign t-shirts #heyfreetshirt, which we donned immediately.

Because that’s what you want US Marine Officers doing in foreign ports – making public political endorsements of a presidential candidate they know nothing about.  #goodinitiativepoorjudgmentlieutenant  The next day, still wearing our t-shirts (probably showered.  must have), we hired a driver to take us to the other side of the island to go scuba diving.  We shoehorned ourselves into what I recall being a clown car.  It was a long drive and we needed a bathroom break at some point, so we asked the driver to stop.  At first we did not realize that he had stopped directly in front of the opposition party’s headquarters.  (Why are those guys out front wearing matching orange t-shirts?)

So we maneuver our way out of the motorized sardine can.  I remember Jason having to stick one foot and leg out the door, duck way down, lean his body out, then drag his other leg out of the car, still stooped over.  Then he raises himself up to his full height – 6’4″ is a giant’s height in Indonesia – right in front of these two campaign workers who were sitting, practically squatting, on a low curb outside the campaign office.  We now recognize their t-shirts as those of the much less popular opposition candidate that we had seen occasionally.  There’s a tense moment here.

We, two giant US Marines, have been foolishly co-opted into wearing a local political t-shirt in a country whose rule of law is, shall we say, different than back home; and we get dropped off in front of the other party’s office like some sort of enforcers for our candidate.  We don’t know how the political process goes down in this country, but I’m telling myself it could be something like Sweet Home Chicago.  Was the driver in on this hit?  And I wonder to myself how they’d explain this to our families if we’re stabbed.  (Well, it was kind-of in the line of duty, ma’am.)

Jason’s next utterance, after a long mutual silence with our counterparts, is one of the best things a friend of mine has ever said:  “So…you guys got any t-shirts?”  Wow, were those guys excited to sprint inside and get us t-shirts.  Think about it.  They flipped some swing voters, avoided getting pounded by giants, and got some good marketing out of it.  We avoided having them call into HQ for an army of Silat ninjas to come out and persuade us of their candidate’s virtues.  Hey, we also got free t-shirts out of it.  Did we put them on right there?  Of course we did.

Because you want that even more – Marine Officers sowing confusion in the local populace as to who they should vote for.  #justplainpoorjudgmentlieutenant  Having been successfully inducted into the party, we were permitted to use the bathroom.

Okay, so the side effects.  Fellow cancer peeps who are on chemo and radiation, I’m sorry.  If I could be your Simon of Cyrene, I would do it.  And remember the hush puppy eyes at the beginning?  It’s what the people want.  Here goes.  I’m sorry.  For some reason, when I’m on this immunotherapy, insect bites are bonkers.  As a kid I went on summer vacations to Wisconsin, where the mosquito is the state bird.  Never – never – have I had the intensity of insect bite itching as I have had since going on these drugs.  The nurse practitioner kind of laughed when I told her today.  I was ashamed.  Okay.  Next one: I now have tiny bald spots in my facial hair.

Hard to even see them in a photo,
but let me tell you, #thishereisreal

Are these the most wussified, laughable side effects you’ve ever heard of?  Preposterous.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I thank God profusely for the small sacrifices he asks of me.  Because I usually don’t like the big ones.  So I am really trying to live gratitude for the tiny bald spots.  And actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m being taught a lesson about pride here.  Josemaria Escriva, whom I’ve quoted before said, “Many who would willingly let themselves be nailed to a Cross before the astonished gaze of a thousand onlookers cannot bear with a Christian spirit the pinpricks of each day!”  Maybe the mortification of trifling side effects is what I need.  Maybe for me this won’t be about gutting out something that’s physically tough.  And I know about myself that giving up some food or another or even partly starving myself in Advent or Lent takes almost no effort.  For me it’s not the physical mortifications that have meaning.  For me the heavier cross is being patient with a coworker who annoys me, with a relative who tells the same story every time we visit, with one of the kids who seems intent on not learning that lesson after being told 20 times.  Or smiling when I’m tired.  Or getting to bed on time so that I’m not nodding off in Mass the next morning.  Okay, God, got it.  Itchy bug bites and patchy facial hair.  You got my attention.  Reminders to be more charitable can come in any form.

With fortitude and prayers for you,


P.S. Yes, I had a treatment Friday.  Easy.