Monday, March 30, 2009

God & The Muppet Show

Today I went and performed a ventriloquist sketch for the "Mom Time" group at our church. It's a group of woman with children who are free during the day. Each week they get together to have fun, eat lunch, and most importantly, study God's word.

Originally I was supposed to go to the meeting on the 2nd of March. Because of other things I had to move it to today. It took me about a month to decide on what kind of performance I was going to do. I really didn't have a puppet that was "perfect" for the occasion. I decided to use Sherman, my old man puppet, so he could talk about being married a long time and do some jokes too.

I also came up with the idea of singing a funny song. I decided to use the song "YMCA" by the village people so I could get someone from the audience to help me move the puppets arms so he could do the dance while he sang.

While looking around on Facebook one night a couple of weeks ago I saw that one of my FB friends wrote on her page that she likes the song "What A Wonderful World." I knew that she was one of the Moms who go to Mom Time regularly. I figured she'd be there the day I was to perform. I decided that Sherman would sing one of her favorite songs.

I was a little hesitant to do a "serious" song with a puppet. I worried that it would be too corny or the Moms wouldn't "buy into it." Nevertheless in a moment of, what I am seriously going to recognize as, divine inspiration; I committed to Sherman singing the sentimental ballad.

As I rehearsed the week before I pictured myself as part of an old Muppet Show. Many times during the course of that series run Kermit the Frog would sit with that show's guest star and together they'd sing a ballad. No comedy just musical drama. Here's a link to what's the prime example of what I mean. It's Kermit and Blondie singer, Debra Harry, singing "Rainbow Connection" together:

So I took the plunge and put the song close to the beginning of the show. I was very happy with the way I performed it. But I was so concentrated on Sherman and getting the song right I didn't notice how the Moms and kids, who made up the audience, reacted to the song. Oh they clapped when I encouraged them to but I didn't look at their faces during the song at all.

After the sketch was over and I was packing up to leave the young mom who is the leader of the group came over to me and told me that my choice of "What A Wonderful World" and the spirit of thanksgiving and sentimental appreciation for God's creations I presented it with was the perfect thing for the group today. She told me that some of the moms were a little emotional during the song. She said it was a "God thing."

Now I tell you all of this for one reason and it's not to pat myself on the back. I want to give all the glory to God for leading me in the way he did with my performance. I didn't know the reason I chose that song and I wasn't quite sure it was right. But I did it anyway because I felt God leading me that way. As it turned out it helped some of the Moms and I didn't even know it would. I guess that's the definition of "Ministry". So with some inspiration from God and a little bit of encouragement from The Muppet Show my performance has helped me to realize that when you follow The Lord's leading it truly is "A Wonderful World."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Disney Animation DVD Collection "Complete"

Last night on Ebay I won an auction for a DVD copy of the Disney animated movie "Fantasia 2000." An updated version of Disney animation featuring classical music. What's significant about this event is that I now consider my Disney DVD collection complete.
With the addition of "Pinocchio", Disney's 2nd major release and "Bolt", the most recent Disney animated feature, earlier this month I have now achieved a goal I set out to complete more than 5 years ago.
I now own , what I consider to be the 61 major theater released Disney animated features on DVD. I have them marked with the year of their release and their place in the collection's order. It starts of course with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (released in 1937) and ends with "Bolt", which I mentioned earlier. It includes all 9 Pixar films.
Once I actually receive "Fantasia 2000" in the mail early next week I'll start setting up my Disney DVD collection in a storage case at the end of our hall that has been empty since our oldest son moved out last August. I can place upon it some of my Disney figures and memorabilia as well as hang my share of Disney stock behind it.
Now that the collection is complete I will probably take on the task of watching them in order once again. I will more than likely find myself alone in this quest as no one in my house enjoys Disney movies enough to want to watch them all with me.
Now I'm not rushing anyone or placing my personal agenda on anyone at all so don't get me wrong when I mention this. But another goal I'd like to achieve is someday being able to sit down and watch these movies again with my grandchildren. Of course that won't be for a while. But once my Disney DVD collection is in place I guess the only thing left for me to do is wait or perhaps I can wish upon a star.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gizmo The Iguana

Less than a week after his bearded dragon went to the great terrarium in the sky my son James came home from the pet store a couple of days ago with a new reptile to fill the empty habitat in his room: a baby iguana.
I didn't know this until the morning after he brought him home. About 7AM this past Tuesday I woke up while Paula and James were getting ready to leave for work. James told me to go back to his room and "look on the log."
In my half slumber I lumbered back into his room, turned on the light and began to look around at the walls. With my brain still fuzzy I thought I heard him say "look at the wall." I yelled back into the living room the fact that I couldn't see anything different. James came back and pointed to the log in the reptile cage sitting on his dresser. That's when I saw our new resident reptile: a small iguana about 4 inches long with a tail already a foot long. James said his name is "Gizmo"
I couldn't believe he went out and got another lizard! I'm not fond of lizards to begin with but my least favorites are iguanas. They grow rather large and can be very temperamental or even nasty. Now in my "I'm grumpy cause I'm still half asleep" mood I made some rather nasty spontaneous comments about his recent purchase. I felt bad about but later when I went to apologize to James he had left for work.
Later in the day I went back to the room and took some pictures of Gizmo. I don't know if I should have. I've taken pictures of the other two reptiles James has owned and they died after a relatively short time with us. Well what's done is done. I guess I can count on the 3rd time being the charm and that the iguana who now inhabits part of the back of our house will live a long and happy life and move out with James before he becomes a large green lizard with an attitude.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Deciding To "Switch"

Last Friday, March 20, my wife and I went for our consultation with our bariatric surgeon in Nashville. We expected him to discuss the gastric by pass procedure we are both interested in having done as soon as possible. While he did discuss by-pass with us he explained and recommended a different procedure he referred to as the "duodenal switch." On WebMD website the surgery is called a "bilopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch."

In a biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch a portion of the stomach is removed, (leaving just a small sleeve) but the remaining stomach remains attached to the duodenum (the upper part of the small intestine). The duodenum is connected to the lower part of the small intestine.

The reason our surgeon recommended this option for both of us is because of our ages and our our BMI (body mass index) numbers. There are biological changes unique to "the switch" which will help us loose weight more efficiently and with more biological "help" in keeping it off. I won't go into the details here on the blog but the biological changes are different than the gastric by-pass.

The recovery time from the switch surgery and subsequent diet are very similar to gastric by-pass. What's different about it is the malabsorbtion of food in the lower intestine. With by pass a person to a large extent eventually can make decisions on what foods to eat or not eat. The choice lies with their mental decision. With "the switch" a significant factor in a person's decision about what to eat is based on biological reaction (or potential reaction) of the new digestive process.

There's a lot for us to understand about the procedure, and what will be a mandatory lifestyle change. Since last Friday both Paula and I have been researching online, reading as much information as we can, thinking and praying about our decision. I must confess I have been the most dramatic about it (Like I am with everything).

But I believe that tomorrow we are going to call the surgeon's office and let them know that we want them to file a request for with our insurance company for approval of the duodenal switch procedure.

It will take a couple of weeks to get it approved or denied. God willing, when it is approved we will be scheduled for our surgery. The way things look now it will be sometime between the middle of June for my wife and about 4 weeks later for me.

We both know that we are doing this with God's blessing. We'd appreciate your prayers and your support as we take this step of faith together on our way to becoming healthier people who will be able to better serve God for His glory.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Sad Late Night "Goodbye"

It is with sadness I have to announce that my son, James', pet bearded dragon, Spike, passed away late last night.

At the beginning of the month I mentioned that he had hemorrhoids. At the time we all thought it was just a temporary medical condition but he didn't get any better. James took him to the vet and was giving him medicine. However the reptile never got better. As a matter of fact I was supposed to take Spike to the vet again today but things turned out badly last night.

James came home just as we were getting ready to settle in for the night. Paula was about to go to bed and I was going to relax and watch some TV. He came in, went to his bedroom and found Spike in his cage, lifeless. It really upset him.

He went to the our storage barn and got a shovel. He dug a hole on the side of the house while Paula and I held flashlights so he could see. Instead of a shoebox being his means of transport to the vet it became part of his final resting place. Sadly in the late night coolness under the illumination of a pair of handheld flashlights our son buried his bearded dragon.

I thought I should have said something to comfort James but really there was nothing to say but "I'm sorry." I guess just being there with him was the best we could have done.

After he was finished he took the shovel back to the barn and Paula and I went back into the house. A few minutes later we looked to see if he was still out in the barn but he wasn't. We couldn't find him for a few minutes and I started to be concerned. Paula started to go back out to the side of the house to look for him. As she did James came around from the side and met her.
He had gone back to the grave to say his own private "good bye."

So Spike, the bearded dragon, is no longer part of our family. He will be missed. There will no longer a reason for a bright light to be illuminating from James' room even though he is not home. In the overnight darkness of our house there will be no chirping from the crickets who managed to allude the lizards slingshot tongue with which he pursued them after they were poured into his cage earlier that day. "Good bye" Spike we'll miss you and always remember you as our first family "dragon."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Welcome To Kentucky

At 8AM on a Saturday morning, March 13, 1999 I checked out of a Motel 6 in Columbus and headed down highway 70 toward Cincinnati. Just after 10 I crossed the bridge from Ohio to Kentucky. I headed south with my destination, Bowling Green, closer than ever.

About 3 hours later I was driving down I-65. A mixture of snow and rain was giving my windshield wipers a work out and I was passing a sign that read "Exit 38." Although it's the exit to the town where I live now at the time it only meant that I had about 16 more miles before I came to the exit I was looking for.

Exit 22 was my destination. I had called Paula and told her I was close to arriving. She said she'd meet me at my new apartment. My future wife had rented a place for me to stay. I had written directions to my new abode. It was in a complex about 3 miles off the exit down Louisville Road, near the local high school.

I arrived earlier then Paula had anticipated but she met me there anyway. My new home was apartment 39. To tell you the truth I don't remember "the moment" of our reunion. But I hadn't seen the woman I was deeply in love with in nearly 6 months so I'm sure it was a moment of significant affection. Well as significant as you can get with her 10 year old son looking on. I don't remember my initial meeting of 10 year old James either but I'm sure he had no idea the impact of my arrival would have on his future.

We went to a local convenience store that had a fast food chicken place inside it and ate lunch together for the first time. Then we went back to my apartment and unloaded my van. As I said Paula had rented the apartment prior to my getting there. She had a bed and some basic furniture. Over the next 3 years I would "redesign" the apartment with all the amenities of home. The apartment came with a stove and a refrigerator. During those early days I pretty much just the bare necessities I needed to help me start my new life. But I had my computer so I was happy.

That's the recount of my arrival in Kentucky 10 years ago today. One of the initial lessons I learned about the area I would now call home was this. As I stated when I drove into town it was snowing. It was one of those late winter/ early spring snows that sticks to the ground but not all that much to the roads. The snow blanketed the ground when I arrived. By mid afternoon the next day, Sunday, all of it was gone. The next day the area schools were closed because of the weather. There wasn't one flake of snow on the ground that Monday morning and the SCHOOLS WERE CLOSED!. I knew then that this place was going to be different.

Over the next month I looked for a job. It took me a lot longer to find one than I thought it would. I had a bad experience with Schwann's home delivery food company and with an employment counselor at the Kentucky Jobs office but by the end of April I had a full time job at a place called "Pete's Fabrications".

Over all the specific memories of my early days here in Kentucky aren't fresh in my mind any longer. So much has happened and changed over the last 10 years. Luckily in 2000 I recounted the details of my move in an autobiographical "book" I wrote called "My Life In The 90's." I can go back and relive them any time I want.

I'm a very chronological person. I love to mark the passage of time and recognize events and memories from my past. I always have been that way. I just couldn't let the 10 year anniversary of the most significant change in my life, so far, pass by without acknowledging it. Now I look forward to the next 10 years.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

10th Anniversary Of "Wide Open Spaces"

Today is a special anniversary for me. It was 10 years ago today that I made the boldest and best move of my life. At about 11AM on March 12, 1999 in Easton, Pennsylvania I merged my Dodge Caravan onto Interstate 78 highway and began my journey to Kentucky.

The song "Wide Open Spaces" by the Dixie Chicks was on the radio and a mix of sadness and excitement was on my heart. With me in the minivan was, what was for all intents and purposes, all my worldly possessions.

I was leaving the only hometown, friends, family, and life I had known for 38 1/2 years. I quit the job I had had for 19 years and didn't have a new one to go to when I arrived at my new destination. I left my father, mother and sisters behind. My dad was fighting cancer at the time. But that's another story for another post.

The reason I was leaving was because of who was waiting for me at the end of my trek. I was moving to start a new life with The Love of My Life, Paula. I know it sounds crazy and impulsive. Although I wasn't exactly living right at the time and God was not one of my top 50 priorities at that time in retrospect I can see His sovereign hand in all that happened.

I know hindsight is 20/20 but I can truly say that the step of faith I took in my relationship with Paula by moving to Kentucky 10 years ago was like a scene in an old Looney Tunes cartoon. I sat on the limb of a tree, sawed it off and watched the tree fall down. It was a move against the odds but something told me it was right for both of Paula and me.

Without a doubt the last 10 years have been the best years of my adult life. Not all of it has been wonderful or easy. Over the 10 years I have experienced the loss of both of my parents and missed out on seeing my sister's families grow. There are other things in my life that aren't picture perfect as well. Again another post for another day.

But I after 10 years I have more than I ever dreamed I could ever have in my marriage, in my relationship with God, (the amazing way He came and found me and brought me back to Him is a miracle in and of itself) in my ministry, in my life. I am a blessed man and I am forever thankful for the decision and move I made 10 years ago.

By the way during my moving trip to Kentucky I spent a night in Columbus. Ask me sometime about the unique experience I had with a certain type of dessert while there. Sometimes cake isn't just cake.

So 10 years ago today I left Pennsylvania to live in Kentucky. The time has gone so fast. In my next post I will share some of my memories about the day I arrived and my early days of my new life. One last note; ironically our weather here today was cold and snowy. The exact same kind of weather there was the day I arrived in Bowling Green: 10 years ago tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Adios American Idol

I started watching in Season 2 (I guess that would have been in 2002) and have faithfully watched since. Gradually over the years my enthusiasm for the top rated Fox show, American Idol, has dissipated. This season it has completely disappeared.

I have suffered through the dreadful process of finally getting to the "Top 12" this season. Wait! Surprise it's the top 13 this year. Anyway the singers aren't that great. Listening to 4 judges go on and on with the same old opinions is boring. The new judge has brought nothing insightful to the show at all. Last night in the first round of the "Top 13" a program that is supposed to be on the cutting edge of the music industry features the songs of MICHAEL JACKSON! How long has it been since he's had a hit song? I mean come on.

The time has come when the hours of my life I've been giving to "American Idol" are no longer worth the investment. I am officially announcing that I am no longer going to watch.

I'm sure my wife will continue to watch and that's just fine with me. It won't prove to be a problem. Because of the hours I work she can record it on the DVR, watch the show (while fast forwarding though everything but the contestants singing) and delete it before I get home from work.

Anyway I want to say "adios" to Ryan, Paula, Randy, the new girl, and Simon. The producers of the show probably changed things around this season to make it new and exciting. It's become dull and boring. So now my life has one less "Idol."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

First "Lap" of Race To Surgery Complete

Yesterday afternoon I went to my doctor for the 7th and final time as part of the "physician supervised weight loss program" required by my medical insurance company in preparation for bariatric surgery later this year.

I haven't mentioned anything about this on this blog for quite a while. To be honest, the reason for my silence on this issue has been my lack of commitment to it. Other than fro the first month or so I haven't been focusing on losing weight over the last 6 months I haven't put much "effort" into it at all. As a matter of fact when I got on the scale this morning I weighed the same as I did before my first appointment last September.

Having said that I now have the initial medical documentation I need to proceed toward the insurance company's approval of my surgery. I'm not downplaying the importance of my lack of commitment to this life changing action. I know I need to be a 100% more spiritually, emotionally committed and behaviorally demonstrative of my belief. I must show in my actions that I am "on board with the plan to take the extreme measure of altering my body as the solution to being overweight and unhealthy.

A couple of things have happened to me over the last 6 months in regard to the way I view this surgery. First of all I've become extremely limited physically. I cannot walk more than a few yards without out of breath and weak. I cannot stand in one place for ANY length of time. Even standing up in church just long enough for the preacher to pray or the congregation to sing a couple of short songs leaves me gets me tired. The walk from the break room to the call center at work (about 300 yards) leaves me so exhausted and out of breath that I don't even leave the call center for my second break.

Second, I've started to take to pursue a different perspective of my conviction that the gastric by-pass would be wrong for me and the lap band placement is the way to go. Both procedures are only "tools" to help lose weight and keep it under control. The ultimate responsibility for behavior that will keep my weight down and not falling back into bad habits over time is mine. I need to choose the "tool" that will be the most helpful for me. The initial drastic weight loss and the subsequent and continuing combination of food restrictions and malabsorption in regard to diet and digestion, respectively, seem to be the best "tool" option for me.

In the past I have vehemently argued that tampering with one of God's creations, the human body, was not being faithful to Him. But over the last 6 or 7 months I have discovered that the real sin has been my continued gluttony. It that has allowed the body He has blessed me with to become lazy and unable to do His will. Although I have recognized my lack of stewardship with my body (read Romans 12:1&2) I have yet to experience true repentance for this sin. I have to admit I LOVE the sinful pleasure of overeating. Coming to a repenting realization that I need to rid my life of this sin is without a doubt the most important spiritual issue in my life right now. To boil it down to brass tacks (a mixed metaphor I know) I must decide who I love more and who I will serve food or God.

In a way I am like the rich young man, in the gospel of Mark chapter 10, who asked Jesus what he had to do to gain eternal life. Jesus told him he had to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. The man was not willing to give up his riches. They obviously meant a lot to him. They gave him a sense of safety and security. He obviously LOVED being rich. His riches meant enough to him that he chose to keep them; despite the fact that their sacrifice opened the way to eternal life.

In my life food are my "riches." I hold onto the pleasure of eating in spite of the fact that it causes me to sin against God and prevents me from being used for His glory. Before I have a surgeon change my digestive tract ;I've got to allow the Holy Spirit change my heart.

Next week, March 20, Paula and I are taking the next step in the pursuit of bariatric surgery. We have an appointment with our surgeon, Dr. Houston, in Nashville. But as I stated, in my case, the more important preparation for this life changing decision is a change in my heart and my relationship with God.

It's an continuing tale that I pray will one day in the near future bring me to a place where I can answer my creator's call to service with all my body and soul.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Finding Friends On Facebook

A lot of my co-workers at ShopNBC are college age or in their early to mid 20's. It's difficult to be around that age group working at a job that directly involves a computer without the discussion of popular internet websites. The one mentioned most among my young co-workers is Facebook. Several of them have mentioned their own Facebook page or those of their friend's or family.

From what I understand Facebook has exceeded "My Space" as the #1 website for social networking among 18-35 year olds. With all the talk I heard from my co-workers about it being different and "better" than My Space I became curious. So a couple of days ago I signed up.

After I filled out my profile I discovered something surprising. The website brought up a group of pictures and names of people already on Facebook under the heading "People You May Already Know". Initially I was confounded as I read through the list of names. There was my best friend, Brent; my two sisters, Peggy & Shari; my pastor and his wife; quite a few of the people who go to my church and more. There were a lot of people I would never have expected to find there. I later found out that the website uses your email address book and profile information to search for a potential friends.

Anyway I've sent out some invitations to be friends with some of my family members and friends and accepted those I've received. I still have a lot to learn about Facebook.

I enjoy the potential for socializing that Facebook has but what I'm really looking at by getting involved is the networking aspect of it. I've heard quite a few businesses and entertainers use the phrase "look for us on Facebook." That makes me think that I could use the website to do some networking and publicity for my ventriloquism instead of trying to create my own webpage. Now that I'm signed up I'll have to actually go visit those websites that I've heard advertised and see how they're being used. soon as I learn how to find my way around, that is.

To sum it all up I'm not sure if Facebook is something I'm going to want to get involve with or not. Only time will tell. I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bits & Pieces

Here's another one of what's become a common type of post. Since there's nothing really new happening in my life that's would keep a readers attention throughout one my "full length" compositions. So here are several things that are at least worth mentioning.

James Gets Back into His Life At Home.
James has been home from his deployment about 3 weeks and he's already gotten himself a full time apprentice position with a local real estate holding company. He'll be doing some "handyman" and general maintenance work on the properties owned by his new boss. It's a job where James can work with his hands and it will keep him physically active. It pays rather well. He's also going to continue with his cadet program with the local city police department. At least the last time he mentioned it he was.
He's also been helping out around the house. Nothing major but helpful nonetheless. The other day he even did some grocery shopping for his mom.
Speaking of his mom, with my working the middle shift on weekends; James and Paula have been spending a lot of that time together. Watching movies and eating dinner. It's a good thing for both of them.

Other things in James' life like getting married and the purchase of a truck are still in the "undecided" category of his life list. As soon as anything new happens I'll let you know.

The Lizard Has What?
One minor problem that has occurred since James is been home has to do with his pet lizard, Spike. The bearded dragon has hemorrhoids. What? That's right. The cause of this could be a couple of things but most likely it's the combination of not enough water and too many crickets and or meal worms.

The solution to the problem for now is replace the sand in his environment with artificial grass, plenty of drinking water, soaking baths in warm water, mostly vegetables for food. I didn't know this but as this type of lizard gets older it's supposed to eat more veggies and less "meat." Sounds familiar doesn't it?

Printer Paradise Returns
This may not seem like a big deal to you but it is to me. After nearly a year of not having one we finally have a working printer hooked up to our computers again. Why it took that long to get one is a very unimportant and boring story. I am delighted because now I can print out my ventriloquist sketches and edit them (I seem to be better at that with a printed copy in my hand) and my weekly "To Do" List. However the new printer (which is also a scanner) belongs to James. It's the one he got with his laptop. When he moves out (not certain when that's going to happen) he'll probably take it with him.

Tale Of Two Sons
I finished reading this book by John MacArthur on February 26. This was a 200+ page exploration of Jesus' best known and most profound parable. MacArthur not only dissects, analyzes and explains the story, it's characters, and it's meaning he does it in a manner that serves as a model for the study of all of Christ's parables and even the four gospels themselves.

Sometime last year online I listened to the author's sermon series from which stems the book. It was the most enlightening and introspective examination of a portion of scripture I'd ever heard before.

If you are interested in learning about man's sinful nature, true repentance, undeserved grace, God's joy over redemption, spiritual blindness I highly recommend this book. If you buy it and it doesn't help you take a giant step forward in your spiritual growth let me know I'll reimburse you it's cost.