For the past 10+ years I’ve had an Amazon Associates account where I make a very small percentage off of what people spend. I used to have that added to my Outdoor Resources ( website, but that’s pretty much been neglected for some number of years now. However…given that we’re on the verge of the holiday season, I thought I’d publish a few links here. If you click on one, and buy something, I get like 1%, which would be helpful towards medical bills and the like. Absolutely no obligation, of course, just figured if you’re already going to be buying something at Amazon, you may as well start here!

Happy shopping!


Which FitBit Is Right For You?


After my post yesterday to @FitBit, I had a few people ask me about which FitBit would be right for them. I’m super happy that they’re considering becoming Fitbitters, and I figure rather than answering everybody individually, it would be easier to just put together a post on it. So, here goes!

We’ve been very fortunate to own and/or gift most of the FitBit models. All but two of them, the Flex and the Surge, have come via my company wellness program, or because I got some awards at work that I was able to translate into FitBits. We’ve learned a few things along the way, so hopefully this will help anybody who’s looking to purchase their own.

  • FitBit One ($99.95). Of the two clip-on versions of FitBit, this is the only one I’ve owned, and probably the only one that I would recommend. The One tracks steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed and sleep. It’s also shows the time, the current battery level, and is easy to recharge. I’ve worn it clipped to my pants pocket, my waistband, and some people I know clip it to their underwear when other options aren’t practical. I’ve found it gives pretty accurate results. If you don’t care about tracking your heart rate, tracking different exercises, GPS, or the other price points are too expensive, this is a great way to get into the FitBit game. It does what the whole thing is about – getting you moving by tracking steps – very well.
  • FitBit Flex ($99.95). This is the first model that you wear on your wrist, and quite frankly, I think they should discontinue it. It tracks steps, distance, calories burned, active minutes and sleep. The problem I have with this one is the display. While every other model of FitBit provides actual numbers, this one gives you dots. There are 5 of them, each representing 20% of your goal. The problem is knowing how close or how far you are from your goal! Let’s say you’re goal is the standard 10,000 steps, and you see three dots. Does that mean you’re at 6001 steps, or 7999 steps? It’s impossible to tell. This is the only FitBit we’ve bought (got it on Craigslist in Houston), and we got it for Alex. He very quickly lost interest because it’s about as motivating as…well…nothing. So, I’d advise you skip this one, unless you find the price just to hard to resist.
  • FitBit Charge ($129.95). A big step up from the Flex, the Charge tracks steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes and sleep. Includes Caller ID. Yep…you can configure it to let you know who’s calling while you’re working out! The Charge has a nice display (tap twice to get it going), and, unlike the Flex, gives you three sizes of bands to choose from (but you have to know your wrist size when ordering). It gives you all the information you’re looking for with a double-tap and a few swipes. The display is pretty easy to read, and the battery life is good. If you’re wanting a wrist unit, and you aren’t interested in heart rate tracking or GPS, I’d recommend this one. It’s attractive, functional, and gets you in the game at a decent price point.
  • FitBit Charge HR ($149.95). Twenty bucks extra gets you the FitBit Charge with the ability to continuously track your heart rate. There are many reasons you might want to do this, from medical conditions to simply enhancing your training. I believe the Charge HR also provides some more granular statistics than the basic Charge. But, the real upgrade here is the heart rate stuff. Here’s some more information about how they capture your life force. Personally, if I didn’t have the Surge, I’d get this one. It gives you lots of good data, keeps you motivated, and helps you stay fit. For the extra twenty bucks, if you can afford it, the upgrade is nice.
  • FitBit Surge ($249.95). The Surge should only be purchased by serious, high performance athletes who want to track every stat about their workouts so they can reach their goal of competing in the highest echelons of their sport. Or…data nerds, like myself, who want every statistic tracked and who like the GPS aspect because they love maps, will find this unit to be pretty awesome. This is the one I have, and it was obtained through the diligent saving of various Amazon gift certificates. I love this puppy! It’s like the Charge HR on steroids! It tracks GPS, continuous heart rate, all-day activity stats and sleep. Includes smart notifications and music control. It’s got a fun interface, lets me know who’s calling and lets me read my texts while I’m working out. It’s obviously super expensive, and not for every budget, but it’s the Cadillac of smart exercise devices in the market. You wouldn’t be disappointed if you got this one.

So, I hope that was helpful. If I had to sum things up, it would be like this: if you just want to get into the FitBit game, and you’re really just looking for some motivation to get out and exercise, the then FitBit One is a great choice. It’s accurate, tracks many statistics, and there are even after market bands you can use to attach it to your wrist. For the price, it’s a great unit (did I mention we washed one in the washing machine once, and it survived!?). If you want to get a bit more serious, and track different activities, or maybe monitor your heart rate, then the Charge or Charge HR is a great choice. Whatever you choose, though, I think you can’t go wrong by going with FitBit!

If you do end up getting one, please send me a friend request (, and we’ll add you to our weekly challenges!

Happy Stepping!


Dear FitBit…

Dear @FitBit,

This is just an open letter with suggestions I’ve brainstormed over the almost two years I’ve been using your products.

I absolutely love your products and your company! We’ve owned or still use a FitBit One, Flex, Charge, Charge HR and Surge (most of them acquired through my company wellness program). We participate in challenges almost weekly (even when I was recovering from surgery!). Most of our family are FitBitters (is that a real word?) as well, and we love helping keep each other accountable for getting in shape.

Your support (@FitBitSupport) is absolutely amazing! I’ve had the pleasure of working with them three times, and each time my issue has been resolved better and quicker than I could have hoped for. Your support team is courteous, humorous, and super quick. They get the job done better than almost any other company I’ve worked with. Super props to them!

All this leads to me being a customer for life! I’ve spent a lot of time thinking while walking, hiking or doing cardio, about how to make FitBit even more amazing than it is now. Here are some of my ideas….for better or worse.

  • General Software Features:
    • I would love to see you add a HIKE option to your list of exercises. Currently I use the WALK option when I go hiking, but they’re not quite the same. My walks are generally on mostly flat terrain, and at a much faster pace than I do a hike at. My hikes are usually slower, and on varied terrain, so my pace is much different. Since I like to look at improvements over time, having to manually cull out Hike vs. Walk entries is tedious. Having a separate category for Hikes would make analyzing my data much easier.
    • Adding an Active Minutes challenge would be awesome. Step challenges are fun, but people could meet their 10K goal without hardly raising their heart rate. But, since active minutes takes into account an elevated heart rate, a challenge like that would indicate a whole new level of exercise for the day.
    • Map switching in the app from street to topographical would be cool. Since I do hikes, having the ability to see the terrain I was on would be pretty cool. And then to be able to switch back to streets…nice. You could investigate the use of OpenStreetMaps if licensing Google maps is too expensive.
    • Enhancing the API to provide more granular date would be cool. In particular, I’d love to see my heart rate as granular as possible. I’m assuming you don’t collect HR data on a per minute basis…so, please give me access to ALL the data you record about my sessions!
    • As long as we’re talking about data, having the ability to export with more granularity would be nice. Again, if all the data is there, please let me have everything. I’m a data nerd…I can handle it!
    • Additional workout export options, like to Instagram, would be great. I try not to use Facebook, but I do use Instagram a lot. I don’t see that as an option on my iPhone.
    • Create a Super Surge watch that includes things like a barometer for detecting altitude changes. If I’m hiking, or maybe mountain biking or doing hills on my road bike it would be sweet to be able to track my changes in elevation (though, on closer inspection, maybe this is already included? I’ve never seen elevation changes when I review my Exercise for the day). Perhaps you could also throw in a thermometer and something to contact emergency services with in case there’s an issue, as long as we’re going for broke here.
  • Hardware:
    • One of the things I had to contact support about was the tips on the FitBit One Clip. When those tips come off, you end up with a super sharp end, that essentially has two pointy tips on it, that you have to push against when you clip that puppy on. Suffice to say, it hurts and is very uncomfortable. So, either make the entire clip one piece, or figure out a way to adhere the tips to the clip so they don’t come off. It would be easier on my fingers.
    • This past summer I was doing an adventure race with some kids from our church. We were on a hiking trail, and I took a tumble. I managed to save my camera, but hurt my FitBit Surge in the fall. The face got scratched (not a huge deal, but kinda a bummer), but the band where it starts to bend around my wrist got scratched in several places. Those areas are getting worse the more I wear it (which is almost 24 hours a day). Having the ability to change or repair the band would be nice. I don’t care about colors at all (black works for me), but as things fall apart, I would like to be able to repair them.
    • I was in Europe this summer, and I tried to use the GPS function of my Surge in both England and Spain. I was never able to get a connection to the satellites. Perhaps this is by design, or perhaps I just didn’t wait long enough (though it was a good 5 minutes), but tracking my walks in a foreign country would be cool because I could go back and revisit those memories.
    • Discontinue the FitBit Flex. Simply put…the dots indicating steps are anything but motivating. There’s nothing like seeing actual numbers reflective of how many steps you’ve taken, and being able to figure out how many you need to achieve your goal. I’d rather put a FitBit One in a band to get all the information that it gives, then wear the equivalently priced Flex and only get dots. My son started with the Flex, and quickly lost the desire to wear it because (1) the dot feedback just didn’t do it for him (nor anybody else in the family), and (2) he couldn’t see what time it was (which if you’re going to wear something on your wrist, seems like a nice feature).

I think that’s it! If you’ve read this far, I appreciate it very much. I love your products, and can’t wait to see what the future brings with them. If you have any questions, want to send me some swag, or simply want to tell me to mind my own business, you know where to find me!



Grace 30th Anniversary Party


On Friday, October 23rd, Grace Community Church celebrated it’s 30th anniversary! It was an amazing party, with several hundred in attendance, and many of the previous pastors came back to celebrate with us.

Here are the pictures I took during the event, if you’re interested:



[Edit : Made the link clickable…sorry about that! Also, feel free to download any pictures you want, or contact me to get higher resolution versions. Thanks!]

The Real Heroes Of My Story

I’ve spent a lot of time in this blog talking about all the amazing people who have helped us during my medical journey the past year plus – doctors, nurses, church family, friends, co-workers – but I’m truly ashamed to say I’ve neglected three of the most important people who have been part of my recovery, healing, spiritual growth, and who have gone to extreme measures to help me cope with the changes in my/our lives. Those people are Michelle, my beautiful wife, and Samantha and Alex, our children.

I truly can’t say enough about what an absolute blessing Michelle has been to me during this time. She has been an absolute rock, taking on everything from arranging rides for the kids, making sure they have places to go after school, being there for all my appointments and hanging with me in the hospital, and doing most of that without having eaten for longer than you or I could handle. She’s put on my socks, tied my shoes, changed my dressings, made sure I remember appointments, and prayed with me before just about every appointment, procedure, and rough period we’ve experienced. And she did it, and continues to do it, with a smile on her face and love in her heart. She is truly the cornerstone of our family, the rock on which we’ve built our family, and the place of refuge in the many storms we’ve encountered. There’s nothing I can say that really expresses the love I have for her, and the gratitude I have for everything she’s done for me, our kids, and everybody else involved in this whole thing. Thank you, Michelle, from the bottom of my heart.

Samantha and Alex, too, have been amazing during this time. Often they don’t know before they leave for school who’s going to pick them up. Sometimes they leave for school, and end up spending days at a relative’s house (not that it’s a bad thing at all!). Their lives have been turned upside down with my surgeries, appointments, unscheduled hospital visits, the many moods of their dad, and adapting to the new way their dad has to approach life. And during it all, they’ve kept their grades up, done everything asked and expected of them, made me some very nice cards, visited me in the hospital, helped around the house, and many other things I’m sure I’m not even aware of. They are the most amazing, adaptable, caring, sensitive, and spiritual kids I know, and I’m absolutely in love with them. I very often forget the toll that all this may have taken on them, and I’m grateful to so many of you for being there to help process it with them. Thank you, Samantha and Alex, for being just who you are.

As of this writing, I feel like I’m making some good recovery progress. I managed to make it to church and The Blender today and, aside from being a bit tired, I feel good. So, I’m going to use this post to close out this particular adventure in my life. Unless something major happens, you can safely assume that I continue to recover, get stronger, and am resuming life as normal. I won’t update this particular experience anymore unless there is something truly worth communicating. I very much appreciate everybody’s support, thoughts and prayers during this time.

In closing, I’d ask that you say some prayers for the true heroes in my life – Michelle, Samantha and Alex. Pray that they, too, recover well from everything that has happened to me, and let God know what an amazing blessing they are to me. I truly would not have made it to where I am today without them at my side.

Take care,



Good Evening!

Well, I’m back home…again! Just took one of the best showers of my life after spending the evening having dinner at home with my family and the Penrod’s and Michelle’s aunt Marge. Good times!

Lab results are in, and it’s basically Staphylococcus aureus, but NOT the MRSA kind that sometimes you pick up in hospitals. Fortunately this particular version of staph is easily treatable, so with all the IV antibiotics I’ve been on the past few days, along with what I’m taking at home, I should be good to go in no time! The good news is that I’m home, feeling great (but pretty tired) and ready to complete this healing thing.

I can’t thank you all enough for your thoughts, prayers, messages, and help you provided our family. I was talking with a nursing student today who was doing a practice assessment on me, and he asked about my support network. I couldn’t have been prouder to tell him about my family, extended family, church family, and the tons and tons of people that I call friends and family! He was quite impressed, and I told him straight up that I couldn’t have made it through all these hard times without you all!

I’d also like to send some serious props to the staff at St. Joseph’s who tended to me during my stay. From the moment we stepped foot in the ER, we were treated with respect and kindness. Everybody, from the guys who wheeled me up to my CT scan and then my room, to the nurses and techs who took care of my daily needs, to the person who took my meal orders…the folks there are the utmost professionals. Please pray for them that they can continue the excellent work they do each and every day.

Hopefully this will be the last post with mention of any recovery problems! I’m praying for smooth sailing from this point forward!

Have a great night!


Haven’t We Been Here Before?

I’m sure most of you have heard, but I’m back in the hospital. Remember that whole not-feeling well, hot-cold, sleeping all the time thing from last week that I spent three visits to my doctor along with a litany of testing on? Well, it all came to a head on Sunday night. After laying in bed from about 4PM – 8PM, I got up to take a shower. After I was done, I felt absolutely terrible, but I also noticed some blood on my towel. My initial fear was an issue with the sutures “down there,” but upon closer inspection, it turned out that the wound caused by my JP drain placement was leaking some very nasty stuff. And it was leaking bad. Throw onto that a 101 degree temperature, a tortuous headache, and the time to head to the ER was upon us.

We headed to the St. Joseph’s ER because they would have my records and my doctors has privileges there (going to the Oro Valley ER was oh so tempting!). We got there at about 9:45PM, and actually made it inside to a bed in about 15 minutes. Then the waiting commenced. After all was said and done, I was being checked into St. Joseph’s because it appeared I had a nasty infection related to where my JP drain was. We also did a head to pelvis CT Scan because of my headache and other symptoms. That would eventually reveal a couple of pockets of fluid in my pelvis area, right on the path of the JP drain.

Got to our room at 4AM and the barrage of visits from just about everybody started, about every 15 minutes. Absolutely no sleep that first night, but I’m insanely grateful to everybody in the ER department, CT scan department, patient transportation department, and the staff in our wing for everything they did for us. They made a bad night about as good as it could get. And they even called my doctor, at like midnight, to get her orders, and then back again sometime around 2AM. AND she was in our room checking on me at around 5:30AM! Totally crazy!

So, here I still sit, getting dose after dose of IV antibiotics while we wait for a bacterial culture to grow and reveal the true culprit at work. Once the actual infection is identified, they’ll send me home with some oral antibiotics. That’s very likely to be tomorrow, Wednesday, at the earliest.

Ah, the frailty of the human body. One little bug gets where it shouldn’t be and everything gets thrown into havoc. Hopefully the antibiotics are doing their job (I am feeling much better for sure) and I’m on the mend.

Will update you once I’m back at home again, which I hope to be very soon!


A Tough Week

Well, this has been one tough week. Let me boil it down

  1. Three visits to my surgeons office, which is literally on the furthest side of town from us
  2. Two trips to Sonora Quest for labs (blood, urine and bag contents)
  3. One chest x-ray
  4. One CT Scan

Basically, I’ve not been feeling well this week…at all. It started pretty much Monday afternoon around 4PM, and I had to take a nap. Three hours later, I knew something was up. I had a fever, was feeling super exhausted, my lungs felt congested, and things didn’t seem great with respect to my stoma output. We had an appointment scheduled with my surgeon to follow up on something from the previous week, so we were set to meet with her on Tuesday morning.

The doctor said things were looking good with respect to the sutures and JP drain, but she was concerned about the other stuff (especially the fever). So, off for chest x-ray to check for pneumonia (turned out negative) and blood draw/urine tests (only showed elevated white count, which is somewhat normal following surgery). Back the next day for follow-up.

Still wasn’t feeling better. Very tired, temp still up. Next follow-up, she decides to schedule a CT scan just to make sure there wasn’t something lurking inside that might be making me sick. All this time, I’m still with my JP drain which is starting to actually hurt, and is beyond annoying (butt hair is painful when tape gets ripped off it!). She had wanted to take it out earlier in the week, but kept it in as that last lifeline to draining out anything bad that might be going on.

CT scan on Thursday. Nasty prep stuff.

Back to doctor today. Everything has come back negative. I tell her that the last couple nights I’ve woken up several times drenched in sweat with a below average temperature instead of a fever! Crazy stuff, but she says she’s had that happen in some of her other patients as well. She finally decides to take the JP drain out (man, you can’t imagine how good that feels to have it gone), but does take a sample of the fluid to do a bacteria test on (it’s looking a little suspect). But she’s confident that all this is just my body’s reaction to the stress of surgery, and that fact that, and I completely own this, I came into the procedure very overweight compared to the one last year. Tie in what the chemo very likely did to my body this year, and it’s no doubt that I should be experiencing a rough time.

Next visit is Monday for abdominal suture (staple) removal and removal of half of the sutures on my bottom (yeah, that should be fun). Then a visit in another week to get the remaining sutures removed. If something positive comes back from the drain sample, I’ll likely have to start antibiotics.

Trying to stay upbeat, but I’ll admit this has been an exhausting week for Michelle and me. Hopefully I can get some rest this weekend and continue to heal!

Asked the doctor when I can start driving…she said probably for at least not another three weeks! That’s crazy! Being home bound is driving me a bit insane, though I do like being with Michelle. I only have one more week off from work, so I’ll be working from home after that I guess. Very much hoping to hook up with the team in Houston sometime in November.

Despite all this, I still feel extremely blessed for everybody who’s helped our family, for our great insurance and a great medical team, for an amazing wife who has to drive me everywhere, and for God who has provided it all! God is good!

Have an awesome weekend!


Proctectomy – The Full Skinny


It occurred to me the other day that, in my usual fashion, I may have minimized the true nature of the procedure I recently went through. I sometimes forget that, because things go so well, it’s actually major surgery, and not as easy as I make it sound. I’m particularly aware of this for anybody who comes to this page that is outside my social circle, looking for a first-hand account of a procedure that they’re facing. So, with that in mind, here’s the full skinny on what happened to me last week.

The procedure I had done was a “daVinci assisted proctectomy.” Basically, my awesome surgeon, Dr. Stefanie Schluender, used the daVinci Surgical System to remove my rectum, some associated lymph nodes, and then sew up my backside. The surgery typically last from three to five hours (it was a bit over three for me), and involves, at least for me, four small incisions in the abdomen and suturing shut of my backside. To put it bluntly…I will never, ever, fart again. If you’re not a guy that might not give you reason for pause, but I have to say…I miss it!

After surgery I was wheeled into the recovery room. For some reason, I had a very hard time tolerating the surgery this time around. I was in there for quite some time, felt incredibly nauseous (to the point they put a scopamine patch behind my ear), and can remember them telling me often to keep breathing. I’m not sure if I wasn’t breathing or what, but it wasn’t going well for sure. I felt like total junk, and was not at all happy with my condition. Contrast this to my last surgery, where my stay in recovery was minimal (aside from waiting for a bed during shift change), and I was up out of my bed as soon as I hit my room. Not this time. It was all I could do to keep from upchucking when I got back to my room. I do want to give props to the very nice nurse…Kim, I think her name was…who kept talking to me and keeping me on task while in recovery. I didn’t open my eyes much, but I was able to focus on her instructions.

Once I got back to my room, and once I started feeling better, I was able to take stock of my situation. There were four incisions in my abdomen, closed with metal staples. They are pretty tiny incisions, so that’s nice. I was wearing a compression belt around my abdomen (and am still wearing it) to prevent herniation of the incision site. My abdomen was sore for sure. In addition, I had a JP drain plugged into my left buttock to help drain fluid from where my rectum used to be. I still have it, and I can safely say it’s a literal pain in the rear! Finally, my backside…my anus (there, I said it)…is zipped up never to be opened again. I’m hoping I never have to get a prostate exam, because I’m not quite sure how that would work!

Fortunately for me, my nausea subsided fairly quickly, and I had very minimal pain. In fact, I didn’t take a hit of the pain medication at all that they provided me, aside from some Tylenol. I can honestly say it didn’t hurt, and that I wasn’t just putting on a brave face. I definitely feel that was a blessing from God.

Now it was time to settle in for the usual stuff – frequent vital checks, meds, extra meds because one of the steroids they gave me spiked my blood sugar, and walking the halls. Dr. Schluender basically said I could be walking or laying down, and that if I was sitting, I had to do it on one side. I did push it pretty hard here because I didn’t want to stay in the hospital any longer than I needed to.

Oh, yeah, one other joyful thing – the catheter. Nothing like a stiff plastic tube to help you pee! ‘Nuff said about that.

Dr. Schluender came in to check on me daily, and was satisfied with my progress. She did drop one bombshell that we hadn’t been aware of, and that was the possibility that the ability to pee by myself might be compromised as a result of the surgery, because of the proximity of those nerves to where she was doing her work. So far I’m happy to report that I’m doing OK on my own, and I continue to pray that it stays that way for the remainder of my life.

I finally get out of the hospital on Wednesday evening after shift change. I’m now settled in at home for recuperation over the next few weeks. I walk A LOT, because that’s what she told me to do. And I try not to sit too much, but when I do, it has to be to one side, which really cramps my muscles. Sleeping isn’t too bad, but, because of how I need to move, I pretty much wake up fully each time I turn over in bed.

Michelle has been an amazing nurse and changes my dressings on the JP drain a couple times a day. No glory there for sure, but I can’t thank her enough for it. I feel like I’m starting to finally get the post surgery stink off my body, but I do smell foul from time to time for sure. The pain in my abdomen from the incisions is almost gone, and I believe my bottom sutures are healing as expected.

I very much apologize if I trivialized this for anybody who came here looking for the real story. I sometimes forget that because I have the blessings of God and my friends and family, it helps me tremendously in coping with the procedure. But make no mistake…this isn’t a trivial procedure, and it doesn’t go the same for everybody. If you have a great doctor like I do, who realizes how something like this impacts your life, then I believe you’ll have an easier recovery because of how the procedure is done. But, every body reacts differently to the trauma of surgery (and it is without a doubt trauma), so your experience will be different. All I can say is keep your Faith in God, accept help from your friends, and work hard on your recovery!

Huge props to the nursing and support staff at the 4 Pavilion Unit at Carondolet St. Joseph’s Hospital. To a person, they are an amazing team! And thanks to everybody who showered, and continues to shower, me and my family with thoughts, prayers, and assistance. It is all greatly appreciated!




Good evening!

Michelle and I are home from the hospital. I got discharged right after dinner.

I CAN PEE! Thank you everybody for any prayers around that. Things seem to be flowing normally.

At the moment, all is good. I’m still not having any pain, just mild discomfort. I didn’t take a single hit of the Dilaudid when I was in the hospital! Just a bit of Tylenol. My sutures and drain all look good.

We can’t thank you enough for your prayers, your thoughts, your visits, and all the help you provided our family. You are literally all a God send. And I can’t say enough about my experience at St. Joseph’s hospital. The staff there is second to none!

I’ll keep you posted as things progress. But, for now, I’ll sign off, comfortable at home!