Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Name's Not Earl But I've Got A List

It’s no longer on network television but one of my favorite comedy shows over the past few years has been “My Name Is Earl”. The premise for the show is that Earl has a list of people he has done wrong over the years. His life is focused crossing people off the list. He spends his time trying to make up to them for the bad deeds he’s done. By doing this it supposed to make him a better person. A concept I call the, all too common, concept of self obtained redemption by restitution. Its an exercise in futility but "Earl" is a very funny show.

The reason I mention this is because I too have a list. It’s not like Earl’s but it helps me stay focused . My “To Do” list gives me a tangible display of the things I want to accomplish; on both a weekly and daily basis. I make a new one on the computer every Sunday.

I don’t know why but having a list of things I want to accomplish each day in writing in front of me is a challenge. There’s a world of difference in my attitude of accomplishing those tasks when I have them written down and with me all time compared to just knowing I have to do them.

Crossing everything I set out to do at the end of the day is very rewarding. It’s kind of reminiscent of something your 1st or 2nd grade teacher would have you do when you were in school. “Cross all the things you’ve done today off of your wall chart, Ronnie” "Good for you!" "Here's your star." It’s elementary but still it’s rewarding.

My list is just a piece of paper on which I write down everything: things I want to get done, my shopping list, my work schedule, notes about church ministry, household or computer tasks, phone #s anything I need to write down or remember over the course of the week.

Most people, these days, do what I do with a portable electronic device. Whenever I ask my friend from church, Jake who is a sophomore in college, a question about his schedule or for a phone number he pulls out his Blackberry and starts tapping away with a stylus. My two sons have mobile gadgets that help them stay organized too. One has an IPhone and the other a PDA. I guess my “To Do” List is very “old school.”

Nevertheless, with the exception of some isolated incidents, the paper system I use for my “To Do” list works very well for me. It has been especially effective over the last week while I’ve been getting ready for the wedding and my family’s visit. Without it I would never be focused or motivated enough to get things done.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Excuses" Takes On A Special Meaning

Back in August I wrote a post about searching the Internet for songs I knew as a kid. (See August 4th post: 2nd Coming Sunset) In that post I mentioned sending the song to my friend, Gene C. and that the song may become part of the musical ministry of a group called "Inner Light Quartet" the gospel group in which Gene sings.

Later in August I received a phone call from my friend, John, who is also part of Inner Light Quartet and he confirmed that the group is trying to learn the song to sing in during their singing appearances. I felt pretty good about sending them the song because it may eventually end up blessing a whole lot more people than just them.

About the same time I sent Gene "2nd Coming Sunset" I was getting ready to add a song to my ventriloquism act called "Excuses". Its a novelty gospel song recorded The Inner Light Quartet on their first CD. That's where I first heard it.

I liked the song so much I got a copy of the musical accompaniment and started learning it to use in my "Street Party For Jesus" performance. It was like there was an exchange of songs between our two ministries. Prid pro Quo blessings if you will.

Yesterday I found out that the Inner Light Quartet version of the song now holds a special memory for me. The lead singer on "Excuses", Darl, left this world and went to spend eternity with God on September 17th.

Darl loved music, especially gospel music. He was a good Christian man and I knew him for a long time. He was a good friend of my dad's as well. They had a lot of common interests: old time TV, popular music of the 50's & 60's, country music, and the challenge of seeing who could make the worst pun.

In 2005 Inner Light Quartet traveled from Eastern Pennsylvania to Louisville, KY to attend the Southern Gospel Convention. One evening during their stay I went to visit them. We went out to dinner and spend some time back at their hotel just visiting. I took the picture that's at the beginning of this post that night. Darl is on the left.

So now whenever I perform the song "Excuses" in my ventriloquism act or listen to Inner Light's CD I will remember my friend, Darl. I look forward to the day I get to meet up with him again and get the chance to tell him how his part in "Excuses" inspired me to use it in my ventriloquism. I also will be glad to see see how happy he'll be singing in with the heavenly choir.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another “Bits & Pieces” Post

Let me just start out this multi-topic post by saying how happy I am that my wife is home from her 3 day business trip. Not only is she back home with me, she brought me presents too.

The outlet store at the sportswear plant she traveled
to had some good buys on the size shirts and sweatpants I will need to wear to work this winter. They don’t fit me comfortably now but they will by the time the cold weather takes hold around here. Thanks for the presents, honey.

Knowing that I need to increase my exercise ability to keep my weight loss consistent I stepped up my walking program yesterday. I walked around the cemetery 3 times. That increased my distance from 1 mile to 1 ½ miles. My ultimate goal for walking distance is 3 miles. That’s how far it is from my house to my church. I want to make that walk some Sunday morning.

As of this morning I have reached the “75 pounds down” mark. It’s a cool milestone and one that gets me even closer to my goal of 100 pounds lost by Christmas. (It’s the gift I’m giving myself this year but I want it to be a surprise so don’t say anything to me about it, ok?). My lovely wife, has lost 64.

One of the “unfortunate” problems stemming from losing so much weight is that I am temporarily unable to wear my wedding band. My hands have grown so much thinner that my ring is now too big for finger. I almost lost it while swimming in the pool at the gym the other day.

I will probably buy myself an inexpensive band to wear until I reach my goal weight and can get the band Paula gave me adjusted to fit again. But for now my wedding ring is going to be in my top dresser drawer. I may not be wearing it on the outside but I’ll always be wearing it on the inside.

A week from today our family will be traveling to Gatlinburg Tennessee for the wedding of our son, James, and our soon-to-be daughter in law, Brandi. The preparation for the wedding and the visit from my family from Pennsylvania starts today.

The action that “officially” began the wedding season was trying on my black suit to see if I could wear it for the ceremony. Its the same suit I wore the day I married Paula. I hadn’t been able to wear it just a few weeks ago. Much to my pleasure it fit. That’s a great beginning to "Wedding Season" for me.

Finally I wanted to let all my blog readers know that during the next 10 days or so I may not be writing posts as often as I have been. For reasons I’ve already explained, I will be very busy and even out of town from now until October 3. I’ll do my best to keep you up to date with what’s going on as it happens. If I don’t I’ll catch up with you when the family events are over and life around here settles down again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hey He Looks Just Like Latka!

As you may know by now (I’ve written enough about it on this blog and on Facebook) today was my first day working the hours of 7:45AM until 4 PM. I felt really strange walking into the call center during the day. It was like starting a new job but yet it was familiar at the same time.

The phone calls came in at a lot faster pace and volume than they did on middle shift. On a typical day on 2nd shift during the 4 hours of taking customer service calls I would average between 20 & 30 calls. During my initial day on 1st shift I took 60 customer service calls. That’s okay though. I like taking CS calls as opposed to order capture calls. That’s one of the reasons I changed shifts.

Also there’s more activity in the warehouse during the day shift. This has a positive psychological effect on me. It tells me that the call center is not just some isolated part of the company.

The warehouse was, for the most part, quite during the 2nd shift hours. Walking back and forth to the break room through the idle warehouse during 2nd shift always gave me a very isolated feeling. Kind of like the feeling you get when you stay late at a baseball stadium and all the players leave the field and they dim the lights.

Seeing warehouse workers doing their jobs and the products we sell in the call center actually being shipped gives me a feeling of being part of something bigger than the job I do in my little cubical. That gives me a very positive attitude toward my job. I’m part of a team bigger than just the call center.

My first day was rather routine. It was the same job, just different hours. Some of the floor supervisors I worked with during 2nd shift came into work during the 2nd half of my day. This made me feel a little more comfortable as well.

Without a doubt the most memorable experience of my first day on day shift came during my lunch time. I sat in the break room to eat. There were a lot of people there and the seating was limited. I sat at a table across from a young man with short dark curly hair and a rather pale complexion.

Much to my surprise he engaged me in conversation. I soon found out his name was Ben and he was originally from Indiana. He was a temporary warehouse worker. He told me that he recently graduated from college with a degree in Social Studies. He wanted to be a teacher but was unable to find a job in a local school district. He was married in June. Now that’s a lot to learn about a guy during a lunch break.

But the candid conversation with Ben was not the most remarkable thing about meeting him. It was how he looked. He looked like comedian Andy Kaufman. I mean he could have been Andy Kaufman Jr. I wish I would have taken a picture of him with my cell phone; but that would have been kind of awkward.

I really liked Andy Kaufman before during and after he played on Taxi. Ben was the spitting image of him. He could have easily played Latka Gravis in a stage revival of the TV show. I mentioned the resemblance to him because it was so obvious. He told me he’s been told that several times. It was difficult to not stare at him. He looked so much like Andy Kaufman.

He told me during our conversation that he may get a teacher’s assistant job he interviewed for earlier in the day so I may never ever see him again. I may not remember much about my first day shift at ShopNBC but I will never forget the day I met Andy Kaufman Jr. I wonder if the real Andy Kaufman just happened to travel through Indiana a little over 20 years ago?

Have you ever met anyone who really looks like a celebrity? If you did email me and let me know. I'd be interested in hearing your story.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Getting Back In Sync

Today was the last day of my days not working the traditional day shift. I had the day off so I got some things done here at home.

Tomorrow I start working on the 1st shift at ShopNBC call center. My hours will be 7:45 AM to 4PM. I know I've mentioned this before but I'm excited about it so I'm mentioning it again. I can't wait to get back in sync with the rest of the world.

It won't be a perfect situation. I will be working 3 out of 4 weekends. That means I'll only get to church on Sunday once a month. However having my nights free will be better for me overall. I can definitely get more involved with AWANA if I want to.

The transition will be a bit tough for me. Tomorrow I start getting up to the alarm clock on a regular basis for the first time in 532 days. The last time I got up, got ready and went to work in the morning was April 7, 2008, my last day working at Perot Systems.

I am very grateful that God has worked thing out for me at my job. Since I've been back to work after my surgery He has answered my prayer to be taken off of answering emails from customer. ( I was moved to another off the phone job about a week after I got back) and has made an opening for me to start working 1st shift. I praise His name for answering my prayers in His time and not mine.

In addition to getting used to working a "normal" work day again I will have to do it without my wife; at least for this week. Starting tomorrow she's going on another business trip to Alabama. I will be here alone until Friday night. I'll be fine with that because I will be getting back to a routine that will be the same as hers once she comes home.

Okay, I'm taking a deep breath. Finishing up this post. Feeding my dogs. Closing the house up for the night. Getting my clothes and put in my gym bag so I can go swimming after work tomorrow. Checking that the front door is locked. Turning off the lights. And then I'm going set the alarm for 5AM. My first day on my new shift will begin with walking my dogs before I go to work. Please pray for me I will need some patients to handle all the change. Thanks.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Walk In The Park

Yesterday, for the first time since our honeymoon, Paula and I returned to Centennial Park in Nashville. This time we weren’t there as tourists (we went to the see the replica of The Parthenon back in 2002) but for the purpose of walking.
The national Obesity Action Coalition sponsored a fund raising event called “Walk from Obesity.” The event consisted of a gathering of fitness and weight loss vendors displaying their goods and services in a small outdoor pavilion, door prizes, and then a 1 mile walk around the Centennial Park.

We drove to Nashville alone but met up with a group of 6 others members of our local weight loss surgery support group there. We had never socialized with any support group member outside of the meetings and seeing them at an event like this was an experience that broadened our social horizons.

Much to my delight the locomotive pictured above was on display in the park near the pavilion where took place. There were a couple of special guests there including a guy who had appeared on the NBC TV show, The Biggest Loser; The Snowbird, a weather mascot from a local Nashville TV station; and 4 of the Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders.

Before the walk Paula won a couple of door prizes: a bath and beauty oils kit, and an autographed CD by country singer, Keith Anderson; along with a Nashville Predator’s T-shirt.

A little after 10 the walk began. The walk started out as rather difficult for me. I couldn’t keep up with our group and I felt badly about Paula not being able to walk with them. Nevertheless she stayed with me the entire walk. The last half of the walk was easier. I finally warmed up my muscles and began talking with a fellow walker who was a lap band patient.

After the event was over we met our support group friends at the Olive Garden just outside the city. It was the same restaurant where we went to eat after Michael and Heather’s wedding last October. Paula and I also went there to eat after our initial consultation with our weight loss surgeon back in March.

Even before we ordered our food I was excited about being there. The last time we were there, after the consult, I couldn’t sit in the chair that had arms. I had to ask the waiter to bring an armless chair so I could sit comfortably. That was different this time. I was able to fit in the chair and enjoy the conversation and the meal. It made me feel great to measure my success in such a practical manner.

We had a great time talking with and eating with our support group friends. It was the first time we’d ever been out to eat in a group with others who had the same or similar diet restrictions.

After we left the restaurant, we did some shopping in the suburban Nashville shopping area. Paula found a Goodwill store where she can buy clothes that will fit her as she loses weight and not spend a lot of money.

About 3 o’clock we headed home. It was a very nice day and a wonderful overall experience. I’m blessed to have found friends who are so encouraging and accepting of me and Paula. The day was so relaxing and enjoyable. It really was a walk in the park.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Leno Loses It In Prime Time

After a week of watching the new Jay Leno Show which airs on NBC weeknights at 10 eastern time/9 Central I’m very disappointed. It just not the same show; and not just in the name and time slot.

After 13 years of Leno following the format nearly set in stone on the “Tonight Show” the new show's format leaves a lot to be desired. The show’s set is unlike any other talk show set I’ve ever seen. There are turntables that rotate to reveal guest comedians and double glass doors that open to allow guests to come on stage. I can’t explain why but the look and feel of it all seems just a bit off. I know it’s stil Jay Leno standing on the special stage doing the monologue, introducing the guest comic’s location pieces, sitting in the chair across from his guests, and doing the familiar Leno comedy bits but it’s just not the same. The pace and timing of the show is off just enough to make me uneasy watching it.

Jay looks exceptionally uncomfortable sitting in just a chair next to his guest and not behind the traditional desk. I don’t know why they got rid of the desk. It’s not something that’s exclusive to the tonight show. All the other late night hosts sit behind desks. It’s a universal element of that brand of program.

The program starts out as usual with Leno’s monologue. His jokes are usually topical and funny. His banter with band leader Kevin Eubanks is entertaining. The altered or staged video taped bits usually work. But after the monologue all bets are off.

The comedians who come on with what I call "location pieces" have not been funny at all; mainly because the comics aren’t funny to me at all. I also miss Fred Willard and Gilbert Gottfried playing their parts of fictional or real person who are in the news and adlibbing away from their scripted jokes.

The new “10 @ 10” bit where Jay asks a celebrity via satellite 10 questions to get spontaneous answers is not very good either. The first one with Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise on location in Massachusetts was as close to a flop as any thing with movie stars of that degree could be.

Jerry Seinfeld’s bit with having Oprah Winfrey appear as a guest on his (Seinfeld’s) segment and not an “official” guest of Leno fell flat on its face. There was nothing funny about it. Robin Williams wasn’t even his usual hilarious self when he was a guest. His harmonica playing was somewhat entertaining but it went on way too long after the commercial. Whose idea was it to let Michael Moore sing on national television? Who is making these decisions?

I can’t comment on the musical acts because I have very rarely ever paid attention to them. I fast forward through them on the DVR.

The comedy bit that usually followed the monologue: Headlines, Crazy 911 calls, or funny new products (such as back to school stuff) have been moved to the very end of the show. The ending of these segments with Leno signing off by reminding viewers that their local news “is coming up right now!” is an awkward way to end a program.

I don’t know who changed the format for the new Jay Leno show but I have to ask “why?” Did they want to differentiate and distant themselves from “The Tonight Show?” They didn’t have to do that. You see, when Conan O’Brien took over this past summer he brought the format he used on his Late Night show. (Just so you know. Other than the “In the year 2000” bit I don’t enjoy anything about O’Brien’s version of the Tonight Show anymore either) Why couldn’t Jay and his producers just have left well enough alone? The partnership of host and format wasn’t broke. Why fix it?

I enjoyed Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.” I DVRed it every night. But I don’t like the new Jay Leno show. Leno is different. He tries to be just like “the old” Jay but like the rest of his show there’s something off. It’s almost “forced”; like he's trying too hard to prove himself worthy of the gamble the network has taken with him.

Last week’s edition of Entertainment Weekly magazine included an article that asked if Leno’s move to prime time was a good idea. Then they proceeded to make a case for answering “yes” and for answering “no”. I’m no one special. I’m just the average American TV view, a loyal Tonight Show fan for years including the Leno years. But if I had to answer that question for myself I’d say NBC has made a mistake and has ruined one of the best programs the network ever had on night network not just on its late night schedule.

I have made a decision. I’ve got a lot better things I could be doing with the 40 minutes it takes for me to watch Leno’s show (I zip through the commercials). So I believe I’m going to delete the setting that records the program every night. Perhaps I'll use it for some extra sleep. At least then I can dream of the old Leno Tonight Show days or even better bring back Johnny & Ed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

When 74 Days Makes A Year

Back in 2007, when I realized that I only had 3 years left until I turned 50, I looked at where I wanted to be in my life on that milestone birthday. One of the top priorities was to lose weight and be healthy by the time I reached the half century mark.

I figured that I could make “ideal weight” by my 50th birthday if I lost an average of 6 pounds per month for 3 years. That was an average of 1.5 pounds a week, which is a typical lost for almost any effective diet. A lofty goal but I felt with consistent effort I could do it. At that rate I would have lose 70 pounds a year. That amount of weight loss in a year is considered successful in both the medical and commercial weight loss communities.

I’ve written all of that to tell you this. After only 76 days since my surgery I’ve now lost 70 pounds. That means in less than 3 months I have lost what was once my weight loss goal for a year. This accomplishment means a lot to me. It means my surgery, efforts, and diet is paying off and I’m on my way to my ultimate goal. That’s highly motivating.

I’ve set a personal goal of reaching the 100 pounds lost by Christmas this year. I’ve got 30 pounds to go with 14 weeks till December 25. Even if my current rate of loss were to slow down by half I will reach that goal rather easily. Of course it’s only a goal.

So while it may not mean much to anyone else this “year’s worth” of weight loss is a milestone for me in my effort to regain my health. No it’s on to my end of the year goal, Walk On. !

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Children's Classics Shared

I enjoyed reading growing up and continue to make it part of my life on a regular basis. There have been times when I would read a book a week and times when it took me a couple of months to get through a 300 page novel. But what ever the frequency reading for enjoyment has always been part of my life. That's why one of my greatest joys in life encouraging a child who loves to read.

I had that opportunity when one of the daughters of my friend, Brent, had a birthday this past week. Both the birthday girl and her sister love to read. Recently I found out that they like the Nancy Drew mysteries.
They showed me the Nancy Drew books they were reading and asked me if I ever read them. Of course I told them that I had not. The detective books I used to read when I was their age were about the adventures of a young boy detective named Encyclopedia Brown.

When I decided that I was going to give each of Brent’s children a birthday present this year (all 4 of their birthdays fall in the last quarter of the year so I haven’t missed any) the book store was the obvious place for me to go.

I found the shelf in the juvenile reading section that was stocked full of both the Nancy Drew and, much to my surprise, Encyclopedia Brown books.

Yesterday afternoon I had the chance to give Brent’s daughter her gift. I was pretty sure that the Nancy Drew books would be happily accepted but wasn’t sure how the Encyclopedia Brown books would be received. She was very excited about both of them.

The girls took a break from their home schooling lessons at the kitchen table and went into the living room to read. I stayed in the kitchen talked with Brent for a while. When it came time for me to leave he called the girls back into the kitchen to say “good bye” to me. Much to my delight each of them had an Encyclopedia Brown book in their hand. I had successfully shared a part of my childhood.

It’s been nearly 40 years since I bought my first Encyclopedia Brown book through the Scholastic Book Club in school. It makes me very happy to know that after all these years that character is still helping children enjoy the simple, relaxing pleasure of reading.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Ironic Role

Yesterday the world was remembering actor Patrick Swayze. He did Monday at the age of 57 after his battle with pancreatic cancer.

Journalists, TV news personalities, and talk show hosts mentioned his work in movies such as: Dirty Dancing, Roadhouse, and Red Dawn to name a few. I know my wife would not only mention Dirty Dancing (her all time favorite movie) in her remembrances of Swayze but the film “To Wong Fu” as well.

I'm probably one of the few who remember Patrick Swayze for a role not many people know he played. There’s a bit of sad serendipity in my mentioning this role too because it was on an episode of M*A*S*H. I just wrote an entire post about my all time favorite TV show a couple of days ago because of the death of it's creator, Larry Gelbart.

The episode I am referring to aired during the 1980-81 season, the 9th season of the Korean War based comedy. It was titled “Blood Brothers”. Swayze played the role of Gary Sturgis, a wounded soldier, who ends up in the 4077th along with his buddy, Dan. At first Sturgis only seems to have a broken arm while his buddy’s wounds are life threatening.

When Dan needs a blood transfusion, Swayze’s character, tells the hospital staff that he will provide the blood. He and Dan are the same type: A. When Sturgis’ blood is drawn and checked for the correct type, Dr. Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) discovers that Sturgis is in the initial stages of leukemia; an incurable disease at the time.

When Dan, the severely wounded soldier, improves and it’s evident that he will recover Captain Pierce points out the fact that the one soldier who came in with the least amount of injury is the one who is going to lose his life. It’s a very emotional episode and Swayze plays the selfless soldier very well.

In 1987 Dirty Dancing made Patrick Swayze a movie star. It was 7 years before that when he played his role on M*A*S*H. In retrospect, given the disease that ultimately took his life, cancer, if seems ironic that he would play a part at the start of his career that would foreshadow the end of his life, some 29 years later.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Bridal Shower

This past Sunday evening in the fellowship hall of our church we held a bridal shower for my son and his fiance.

It was a combination family/church shower and there were quite few people there. In addition to the customary cake and punch (supplied by the church) there was cheese spread & crackers and sandwiches. It was a pretty nice buffet for a bridal shower.

The kids got a lot of nice stuff including a digital picture frame, a griddle, waffle iron, dishes and more. We gave them a spice rack. In the above picture James doing a good job as a display model while Brandi holds our gift.

I took a bunch of pictures to preserve the memory of the occasion and record the gifts they received. After the shower Paula told me that someone commented that I was taking pictures to document the event. Then someone said ‘Yeah and then he’ll write a book about it.”

Well this isn’t an entire book but it is a post to mark the first “official” step in events of my son’s wedding. The ceremony is still 3 weeks away but the time is getting close. It will be an exciting time for our family.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Appearance At "Street Party For Jesus"

Last February Pleasant View Baptist church burned down. But that didn't stop them. They are in the process of building a new church on the same lot and yesterday they had their 2nd annual "Street Party For Jesus."

Once again this year I had the opportunity to minister as a ventriloquist. Since this would be the 3rd time I was performing at the request of this church, I would need to show them something new and different. I decided I would use my new vent figure, Ruben, for the first time in front of this audience.

I also chose 2 songs for my act. One of the songs I would sing with Ruben and the 2nd song I would have Ruben and Cecil the turtle sing. The songs were “Bread Upon The Water”, a song about obedient giving and having faith that God will come through on his promises, and “Excuses”, a comical song about the many reasons people give for not attending church. The conclusion of my presentation would be the “Cross trick”, a visually effective object lesson that demonstrates the effects of the cross on sin.

Since this performance would be a challenge for me I rehearsed more than I had for any other. The words to the songs were hard for me to memorize; especially the 2nd verse of “Excuses”. I worked on it for over a week and was finally convinced that I had it down. I would later find out differently. In addition to memorizing words, I had to make sure I could use 2 puppets at the same time convincingly. My rehearsals went very well and I felt I was really ready for this performance.

Having said that I must tell initially everything on stage went well. Ruben and I sang the “bread” song and I got a couple of laughs with some standard vent jokes as well as a joke I wrote myself about Reynolds Wrap. I even segued well into the duet with Cecil the turtle on one hand and Ruben on the other (see the above photo). I was pleased with my performance until I got to the last verse of the song “Excuses.” I lost my focus and I forgot the words.

That had never happened to me before while doing ventriloquism. I totally panicked. I forgot the correct voices for my puppets and got so embarrassed that I couldn’t improvise lyrics (which I’m usually pretty good with). Instead I tried to catch up with the song and that didn’t work either. Luckily, I was able to sing the chorus to end the song. I apologized but was told later by my wife that it only brought attention to a mistake that most people didn’t notice.

I finished with the cross trick as planned. It always impresses both kids and adults who see it for the first time. It ended my time with a good message.

Quite a few people told me they enjoyed the act and I appreciated their compliments. My next door neighbor, who is a member of the Mt. Pleasant church, told me that I should be on TV.

Now normally I would have focused on my mistake and ended up criticizing myself for the rest of the day because the act wasn’t perfect. But this time God gave me a different perspective about my performance.

This was a big step for me in my ventriloquism career. I used a new and different style puppet. Ruben is your typical ventriloquist figure with controls on a stick operated by your fingers and not just by moving your hands. Plus I used 2 puppets at the same time for the first time. Also it was the longest ministry performance I’ve done so far. That’s another step toward what I see myself doing in the future. I’ve always seen myself doing a longer program that’s more of a variety show than just a “vent” act.

Overall my time at the 2009 “Street Party for Jesus” was a very successful performance. I’m sure they’ll ask me back next year. Also, it has made me even more determined to practice on a regular basis so I can make sure I know my act like the back of my hand.

One final note: Paula came with me to the event and I asked her to take some pictures. In the past she hasn’t gotten very good results when using my digital camera. Even though I asked her to take pictures I only expected her to take a few with one or two of them being in focus. Much to my surprise she took over 71 shots. Only a couple of them were out of focus so I guess she’s caught the shutter bug. How she will do with her new camera now only the future will tell

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A M*A*S*H Tribute

On the way home from work the other night on the radio I heard the sad news that Larry Gelbart had died from cancer at the age of 81. Larry Gelbart was a television, movie and play writer. He wrote the screen plays for the movies "Tootsie", "Oh God!", and more. His play, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum" won him a Tony award. But he was best known as the creator, original producer and head writer of my all time favorite TV show M*A*S*H.

Over the last several months I have working on a list of my top 10 favorite episodes from the Korean war based sitcom. I've been waiting for the right time to post it on this blog. With the death of it's creator I figured, as my personal tribute to Gelbart, now would be an appropriate time.

This list is my personal favorites and nothing else. They are the episodes I love to watch over and over and laugh each and every time. You may agree or disagree with my choices but I stand by my decisions. The episode titles do not appear anywhere on screen before during or at the conclusion of the episode so you may not be familiar with them. So I have included a brief synopsis of each of my choices. Now here, counting down from 10 to 1, is the list of my top 10 favorite episodes of M*A*S*H.

10. Edwina-The nurses of the 4077th MASH give a collective "cold shoulder" to the doctors demanding that a shy, lonely and dangerously clumsy nurse, named Edwina, be treated like "one of the girls." In a clandestine conclave Hawkeye Pierce is chosen for a unique suicide mission: A date with Edwina. One of the best examples of physical comedy the series has to offer.

9. Hepatitis-When Father Mulcahy comes down with a case of hepatitis, Captain Pierce is given the task of inoculating the camp officers. A task that proves difficult as Hawkeye deals with an extreme backache brought on by the news of the success of one of his "incredibly average" medical school classmates, Vernon Parsons.

8. White Gold-When a group of aid station medics breaks into the 4077th's supply tent to steal their penicillin CID operative Colonel Flagg (Edward Winter) shows up to investigate. The investigation takes an interesting turn when Flagg the captured thief free and works himself over. Probably the 2nd best Colonel Flagg episode of the series.

7. A Night At Rosies-Tired of dealing with the war Hawkeye and BJ retreat to Rosie's Bar refusing to return to camp. They decide they aren't ever going back and declare the bar it's own sovereign country: Rosieland. Other plot thickeners include: an AWOL soldier, who takes a liking to Major Houlahan; Klinger getting taken in a crooked floating crap game; and an unconscious officer that no one can identify.

6. Margaret's Engagement-When Major Houlahan returns from Tokyo betrothed to Lt. Colonel Donald Penobscott her affair with Frank Burns abruptly comes to an end. Burns seems to take the news of Margaret's engagement rather well until he goes off the deep end. In an effort to prove his manhood he takes a Korean family prisoner accusing them of being spies. But a timely placed phone call defuses the situation. This is the best "major plot line change" episode of the series and the only one to make my top 10.

5. Movie Tonight-With stress at a high and morale at a low Colonel Potter orders the entire camp to attend a showing of the movie "My Darlin Clementine." It's an old shoot'em up style western about the gun fight at the OK corral. When problems with the projector interrupts the film the many talents of the members of the 4077th take over. The festivities include: personalized verses of the song "Army Life" by Pierce & Hunnicut, Major Houlahan, Radar O'reily, Corporal Klinger and even Frank Burns as well as a Father Mulcahy sound alike contest. A really fun episode.

4. The Incubator-When Hawkeye and Trapper John find out that an essential piece of medical equipment isn't army issue for field hospitals they pursue it through "other channels." They go from a supply sargent with a hoarding complex to a colonel making major profits all the way to a General holding a press conference. They disrupt the press briefing with questions about getting an incubator. The situation ends rather ugly when they are arrested and taken away with Hawkeye hollering "Give me an incubator or give me death" all the way.

3. Patent 4077th-Major Houlahan goes on the war path when Corporal Klinger accidentally throws away her uniquely engraved wedding band. The surgeons design a new vascular clamp that will help save life and limb but can't get anyone to build it. A Korean local selling merchandise from his cart along with trinkets he crafted himself proves to be the solution to both problems. Most memorable line of the episode: Over hill over dale Korean clamp will never fail.

2. Adam's Ribs-After a fit of rage from being served liver or fish 11 days in a row Hawkeye suddenly begins lusting for the spare ribs made in restaurant in Chicago. He calls "Adam's Ribs" and places an order for ribs and sauce but no cole slaw. A carefully devised plan is enacted to get the ribs to the 4077th. The plan hits several snags but eventually the ribs are served...just as the sounds of choppers can be heard and the announcement of incoming wounded is heard. There are too many funny lines in this episode to even choose one as the best. It's truly the essence of the series writing at it's best.

And now the episode you've all been waiting for. My favorite episode of my favorite TV series of all time (drum roll please)

1. Officer Of The Day-An episode that sees Hawkeye Pierce take on the "OD" duties at the 4077th. It launches with Pierce's recitation of a series of suggestions of what he will "carry" before he'll carry a gun and goes on from there. Hawkeye has to deal with a series of local indigenous personal requesting medical treatment as well as Corporal Klinger. The "section 8 wanna be" gets caught several times trying to escape from camp in disguise. The episode really reaches it's comedic peak when CID agent, Colonel Flagg, brings in a wounded spy demanding he be "patched up" so he can be taken to Tokyo and executed. The laughs and comedic energy in this episode flows from the first scene to the last. The lines are like humorous poetry. It is without a doubt, out of over 2500 M*A*S*H episodes my #1 favorite.

So there you have my top 10 favorite M*A*S*H episodes list. If you are as big a fan as I am and your list is different let me know. I'm always open for a good debate about the life and times of the good old 4077th.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Where Were You?

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?” That’s the opening line of Alan Jackson’s 2001 hit song commemorating the country’s reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11 that year.

Everyone has memories of that day. I wrote an article for my 2001 yearbook (a collection of pictures and articles recalling the events of my life during that year) called “Terrorism Tuesday” that tells my story from that day.

Every year on the anniversary date since then the United States has paid tribute to everyone who lost their lives in the 3 attacks that day. The repercussions of the events of that historic day are still being felt through the US military’s continued presence in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. My son has served in Iraq and my 2nd cousin is currently serving in Afghanistan.

The thing I want to acknowledge is the unique emotional condition of the country in the aftermath of 9/11/01. The best way I can do that is by posting here the lyrics to Alan Jackson’s song. It captures the country’s feelings at the time perfectly.

"Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)

"Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
out in the yard with your wife and children or working on some stage in LA?

Did you stand there in shock at the site of that black smoke rising against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger in fear for your neighbor?
Or did you just sit down and cry?

Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
and pray for the ones who don't know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?

Did you burst out in pride for the red white and blue?
The heroes who died just doing what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer?
And look at yourself and what really matters?

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?
Teaching a class full of innocent children or driving down some cold interstate?
Did you feel guilty cause you're a survivor?
In a crowded room did you feel alone?

Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her?
Did you dust off that bible at home?
Did you open your eyes and hope it never happened?
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?

Did you notice the sunset for the first time in ages?
Speak with some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow?
Go out and buy you a gun?

Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watching and turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns?
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some stranger?
Stand in line and give your own blood?

Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family?
Thank God you had somebody to love.

I'm just a singer of simple songs.
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God.
And I remember this from when I was young faith hope and love are some good things he gave us.
And the greatest is love
The greatest is love
The greatest is love
Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day

Shift Change

I've been back to work at ShopNBC since August 17. Things have really changed for me since returning. First thing that changed was that the day I got back I had to move to a different cubical because the computer at my at my desk didn't work. That initially upset me. As it turned out I got to sit at the desk next to the person I consider my best friend on 2nd shift.

The next thing that changed was my "down time" responsibilities. That means the job I was assigned to do after 8PM when customer service department closes and only order capture calls come in. When the phones are quite everyone has other administrative jobs to do. Since back in March mine had been to answer online emails sent to us through the company website.

Without going into details let me just say that I really really disliked answering emails. I prayed for quite a while that I could get out of doing it somehow. About a week after I returned to work my supervisor called me to her desk and told me that I was being taken off of answering emails. She gave me a reason I still don't quite understand but it doesn't matter. I now have a different "down time" job and I like it a whole lot more.

However both of those changes pale in comparison to the change that's going to happen starting the week of September 21st. I am moving from 2nd shift to 1st shift. It will be a big change for me. I haven't had to get up in the morning and go to work since the first week of April 2008. It will take some getting used to. I've become quite a "night owl" after working 2nd shift for nearly 9 months.

My hours will be 7:45 AM until 4PM. I will still have to work the weekends, which means I won't be able to go to church on Sunday mornings very often, except on my days off. This will really change my plans to become involved in children's church as a ventriloquist. But it won't eliminate them. I will also be able to do something with the Wednesday night Awana program on a regular basis.

Also my wife and I will be able to spend more time together and go to bed at the same time. We'll be able to go to a movie when we want to even if it's after work. I don't have to go into details but our lives will be a bit more in "sync" then they are now.

Next week is the last week of working 2nd shift. I will miss the co-workers I have come to know and entertain over the last few months. I know for a fact that working 1st shift in the call center is a lot different. I will have a different group of supervisors and co-workers to get to know. It's busier than 2nd shift as well in regard to answering phone calls. There will be almost no "down time" but I'm sure the change will be worth it. This switch will be a positive change. It's what I wanted all along.

The immediate result of this change is that I will be able to spend a bit more time with my family from Pennsylvania when they arrive here in town later this month. That's a benefit.

I've been praying that God would give me the opportunity to get back on the same page with my wife and the rest of the world as far as scheduling is concerned. Now He has answered that prayer. So another big change in my life is about to happen. Now all I have to do is turn it to a positive and productive one that will help grow into being the Christian God wants me to be.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Letter Of Apology

Okay I’ve mentioned it in my last two posts so now it’s time to let you all in on something I did on my birthday and I’m glad I did it.

I sent a letter of apology to my cousin/ life long friend. We had what I’ll call “a disagreement” a little over a year ago. We hadn’t communicated since then with the exception of once.

Over the last year I have learned a lot about reconciliation in relationships. Mostly from what learned from the life of Jesus and the books I’ve read books about the gospel, the 12 apostles, and the parable of the Prodigal Son.

The main thing I learned is that to reconcile with someone, in the relationship someone has to make a gesture of “good will” toward the other. Inherit in this vital step is a vulnerability. There’s always a risk of rejection. But the one making the step views being separated from the other person worse than the risk of that rejection.

Now let me step back a bit and tell you that despite a very strong desire to patch things up with my cousin for almost 9 months my personal pride was not willing to allow me to approach him from a vulnerable position. I couldn’t admit my responsibility for the rift between us.

Over the course of about 3 months God dealt with my heart and pointed out to me that my love for my cousin and the desire to be his friends again would require an admission of responsibility for causing problem.

I began to read our email correspondence again. Since he lives in Pennsylvania and I live in Kentucky that’s how we played out and escalated our disagreement. I began to see how I was at fault. How cruel and judgemental my words were. I realized I deserved what I got out of the situation. I wasn't much of a friend at all. God gave me a humble heart toward my cousin. I was so wrong in what I did that I needed to come back to him in a very repenting way.

About the beginning of July I started writing telling him I’d seen the truth in his point of view, that I was wrong in my behavior, I needed to ask him to forgive me because I wanted to reconcile our friendship. After much personal debate about if and when to send the letter I decided that my birthday would be the perfect day. So yesterday I sent it fully prepared for either a positive or a negative response.

I am happy to say that I received a positive response. He also asked me to forgive him for his stubbornness. Then he told me something that made me smile. He told me that the entire time we were not in contact with each other he continued to read my blog. He has read every post. That shows that even though our friendship may have been disrupted on the surface it continued in both our hearts and minds. While he was reading my blog I was constantly seeing, hearing, or thinking of things that reminded me of him and wishing things were different.

I am so glad that my stubborn actions didn’t end one of the strongest friendships of my life. My cousin told me that I should “stop beating myself up” in regard to lamenting the degree to which harmful my actions toward him were. But I don’t consider it being hard on myself. It’s more an attitude of gratefulness that in spite of my selfish behavior our friendship has survived. I did everything to destroy it but yet it survived.

So now I am reconciled with my cousin and life long friend. We are going to have to work on catching up about what has happened over the last year; at least I will. Once that’s done we can look to the future and enjoying celebrating our 50th year of life together.

First thing's first I'm going to send him a Facebook friend invitation. That should get things going.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

An "Ordinary" Birthday

There was really nothing out of the ordinary about my birthday today except for two things. One of them really had nothing to do with me at all. Today's date was unique 09/09/09. It was a "once in a century" occurrence and the world took notice.

I heard on the news that a higher than normal amount of couples "tied the knot" in order to have a special wedding day. My guess woud be that it wasn't so much so it would be special but that it would be easier for the husband to remember the anniversary.

The other thing that happened today warrants it's own blog post. I'll write about it tomorrow. Do I have you curious? Well here's a hint. I wrote about it as part of my last post. It involves a family member. Enough said. More tomorrow.

As a rule I usually try and do something special on my birthday but today I really didn't make any plans. I just got up about 7:30 and took my dog, Dory, to the vet to have her teeth cleaned.

I called my friend, Brent, and reached him while he was in the middle of a do-it-yourself car repair. As it turns out he had the same problem with both of his cars at the same time. I since I really didn't have any plans for the day I offered my assistance. I gave him a ride to the auto parts store and took him to pick up his 2nd car in the parking lot where his wife works.

It was great to spend time with him and his 4 children. All 4 of the kids, led by his oldest daughter, wished me "Happy Birthday" in unison from the back seat of my Vue. It was one of the best birthday tributes I got all day. Things didn't work out as smoothly as they could have for Brent with his car problems but I was glad I could help him when he needed it.

I got lots of "birthday wishes" from all my family and friends on my Facebook page. My sister-in-law came over for a visit and gave me a very cool gift. I got birthday calls from both my sisters as well.

I spent the rest of the day at home. I was tired and didn't feel too well. My "system" was a little grumpy today. I took a nap and finished my list of my favorite 25 episodes of the TV show M*A*S*H. That's material for a future post as well. I also practiced for my "Street Party For Jesus" performance on Saturday.

I went to the vet about 3PM and picked up a very groggy Dory. She still hadn't come completely out of the anesthetic. She laid around the rest of the day; only coming to "life" long enough to eat the food I had put down for the cat.

At my suggestion Paula brought home KFC grilled chicken. It was the first time I'd had it and it was pretty good. I couldn't help but take a nibble of the biscuit that came with it. Only took a small bite but it was good.

The evening of my "ordinary birthday" was completed by sitting and watching the Yankees play a game against the Tamp Bay Rays. Although they had no idea they did it they really made my night. First of all Derek Jeter, the Yankees shortstop, tied Yankee individual all time hits record held for 70 years by Lou Gehrig. Also in the bottom of the 8th Jorge Posada hit a pinch hit 3 run home run to give the Yankees a 4-2 come from behind victory.

So as I sit here at my computer on the last few minutes of my 49th birthday I am inclined to wrap this post up by telling you that as birthdays go this is not one I will remember for any particular reason (the subject of tomorrow's post excepted). But I will say that as I look back on my 49th year it was quite a memorable one for me. I won't go into details of everything that happened to me but if you're wondering what I'm referring to review my posts from September 08 until today.

While today may only be a marking of the time passing in my life I can say for sure that on this birthday I Love God much more than I did a year ago. I'm in much greater awe of His power, His Majesty, and His Love. I am have a better understanding and a "heart sense" of what the sacrifice, ministry, grace and gospel of Jesus Christ means in my life, to the church, and to the lost sinful world.

I look forward to God working His will even more in my life as I march toward that earthly milestone of 50 years of age. My prayer to My Lord is that I be a obedient and active participant in His work.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Writer's Block Alternative

It’s been a couple of days since I’ve posted and the only reason is that I’m suffering from a temporary writer’s block. I can’t seem to come up with anything that would be of particular interest to my readers. So here’s a post of random items to keep you up to date with what’s happening in my life.

Overall things are going well and God continues to be faithful on a daily basis. I have reached the 65 pounds lost mark as I complete my 2nd month since surgery. I walk my dogs every day and go to the gym to swim at least 2, if not 3, times a week. I continue to fit into clothes I have stored in the back of my closet and find myself able to do things that I couldn’t before surgery.

I’m very excited about having the opportunity to perform again this year at the “Street Party for Jesus” festival this coming Saturday. I’m going to be doing a 20 minute ventriloquist performance that includes singing 2 songs. I’ll have more about that after I perform.

My 49th birthday is coming up on Wednesday to help myself “celebrate” and I’m going to be doing something that I’ve felt I should do for several months now. It’s a gesture toward a member of my family and will leave me very vulnerable and open to being hurt, emotionally. I can’t tell you what it is until after I do it. But I’ll be sure and let you know what happens.

Anyone who knows me knows I love to make up parody songs. That means I like to make up other words to familiar songs. I’ve been doing it for years. Earlier this year I made up a couple of songs about my job based on the songs used on the popular “Free Credit Report.com” commercials. My most recent parody is one written to the tune of the Beatles song, Yesterday. It’s about my recent weight loss surgery and the lifestyle I had to adapt afterwards.

I entitled the song “Roux-en-y” (pronounced "roo in why") which is a specific term for the kind of surgery I had. If you sing it to yourself you'll see it fits. I’m really proud of the song and it conveys the way I feel about having surgery in a rather clever way. Perhaps one of these days I’ll get to record it and put it on YouTube but I don’t know when that will be.

I have been back to work since the middle of August and am really enjoying my job since I’ve been back. The two main reasons for this are because of changes I've made at home. I have been getting up earlier than I used to and getting some things accomplished before I go to work and I’ve been going to bed earlier at night.

I have a list of “things to do” for each day and try my best to them it done before I have to leave for work. Striving to get them done gives me a sense of accomplishment outside of work. I don’t feel like all I do is get up and go to work. I get things that are important to me completed. This has made a big difference in my life.

The last thing I want to mention is that I’ve been really feeling the call to start working in Children’s ministry again. But this time I want to do it exclusively as a ventriloquist or puppeteer. I want to start by getting involved once again with the Children’s Church and Awana ministries at my church but only by performing as a “vent” to as a supplemental teacher, not the main teacher. This will help me get the involvement I need once again as well as leave me available to go out and do some ministry with other churches as well.

In my heart I had stepped away from God’s calling of ministering as a ventriloquist a while ago but now I am compelled to return to it. Right now it’s just an intention but I’m going to have to speak with my pastor about it to get it started. As with a lot of the things I’ve written about in this post; I’ll let you know what happens.

That's all for now. As I look back at this post it seems as though having writer's block really isn't a problem. Either that or this post has helped me work through it. Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Roller Coasters, Here I Come...Next Summer

With the first week of September comes the Labor Day holiday. Traditionally it marks the "unofficial" end of the summer season. The beach resorts on the sea shore close for the season and so do the nation's amusement parks. This means that another season has passed where I've been unable to partake of the fun a day riding roller coasters and other thrill rides because of my size.

Like many Americans I have enjoyed amusement parks since I was a kid. During my teenage years a day at our local park, Dorney Park, was, what we called, our annual family vacation. I really looked forward to that day the entire summer. I have so many memories of those times together with my family.

But I haven't been able to experience a day at an amusement park without stress for quite a while. The worry of whether I would fit in the ride seats or the safety belts, bars,or harnesses will close around me limited the degree to which I could relax and have fun. There's nothing more embarrassing than having to get out of a roller coaster car and walk past the other waiting already loaded passengers toward the exit; simply because you're too big for the ride. It was an ultimate embarrassment that even brought me to tears, once.

My 2004 trip to Walt Disney World was the exception to this. But only because I did extensive research and found some resources that helped prepare me. They gave information to larger Americans about the "do's and don't's" when it came to deciding which Disney World rides were "big guy" friendly and which were not. Also the Disney company is also very responsive to the needs of it's biggest fans and tries to accommodate as much as any park I've ever been to.

Now back to the reason I'm writing all of this. My enjoyment of amusement parks has been quelled for a good 10 years or more. But this is the last year for that. Based on my successful weight loss so far I'm projecting that by next June or July I will be able to go and enjoy riding the rides once again. So look out roller coasters. Here I come.

Next summer I want to make triumphant returns to Kentucky Kingdom, Kings Island in Ohio, and Dorney Park in Pennsylvania. I would also like to go to Beech Bend, a local park here in town, Cedar Point near Cleavland, Holiday World in Indiana, and Hershey Park, in Chocolate Town USA, Hershey, Pennsylvania. Of course the ultimate joy would be a return trip to Orlando for my 2nd trip to Disney World or a first time trip to Disneyland in California. But those won't happen for a while.

Just the thought of the morale victory I will be achieving when I sit down and buckle up to ride the "Son of The Beast" or any other roller coaster or ride I may choose. It may seem like a silly thing to be shooting for but it's a very important goal for me. I am determined to achieve it.

So during the summer of 2010 if you're wondering where you can find me perhaps you'd better get on Googel Earth and zoom in on any of the parks I've mentioned. You just might see me "catching some air time" on the hill of a gigantic roller coaster. Even though I may not know you're looking in you will be sure to recognize me I'll be the one smiling.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Welcome To Music 21st Century Style, Ron

I guess I can officially be called "old" because of what I'm about to admit. I've been resisting the advancement of technology when it comes to music. Recorded music has been in the "digital stage" for several years now. The Ipod or generic MP3 player is a common source of personal musical entertainment and internet downloads are a common source of purchasing music.

As someone who grew up collecting vinyl records, cassette tapes and CDs I have found it very difficult to put confidence in any from of a music collection where I can't hold the music in my hand. It just doesn't give me a sense of ownership of the music. I'm the same way with books. I have to have a copy of a book in my hand to feel like I've really added it to my collection.

To me having an MP3 player with over 700 albums stored on it is not the same as having 700 CDs slipped into plastic sleeves of a storage case and kept on a shelf. To store and copy music in a totally electronic format as computers files has such an inherent vulnerability to it. One virus on the hard drive of the computer where your collection is stored or one accidental drop of or spill on an MP3 player and the whole collection is gone.

With records, tapes and CDs losing a recording usually only happened on an individual album basis. If you scratched a record or CD, or a cassette tape was "eaten" by your player you only lost a song or just one album at the most. The feeling of insecurity inherent with digital music is something I just couldn't deal with. This has kept me from jumping into this new era of entertainment for a long time.

But alas technology and culture has quickly by passed those who feel the way I do about physically possessing the music we listen to. I've finally decided to raise the white flag. Today I made the jump into the world of modern music technology.

I downloaded some music from CD to my computer to my phone's MP3 player. I will start listening to that music over the stereo system in my Vue through use of a low frequency transmitter. I will listen to the MP3 player while I'm exercising or taking my dogs for a walk. The great thing about doing this is that I can also download some sermons that are available online from some of my favorite preachers such as John MacArthur, Alister Begg, David Jeremiah and John Piper.

Eventually I will rip all the music from my collection of over 700 CDs, as well as my Rewind shows, which I have on CD, to my computer as my initial digital music collection. I will then copy them onto my phone/MP3 player. I will make up play lists and enjoy my music the way most people do in the 21st century. I guess it's about time I got up to speed. I'm sure I'll enjoy the flexibility and the convenience of it all...eventually. Please welcome me to this new world of music with open arms. I'm probably going to need some help getting used to it.